Anti-TriMet blogger Lane Jensen today was given a suspended sentence for telephonic harassment, and was ordered to have no contact with agency spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt for three years.
Jensen pleaded no contest Jan. 17 to one count of telephonic harassment for repeatedly texting questions to Altstadt's personal cell phone Oct. 15.
His plea deal means prosecutors dropped 30 other counts of telephonic harassment—one for each text he sent to the spokeswoman. Each charge carried a maximum sentence of six months and a $2,500 fine.
Jensen ran a blog called Portland Transit Lane, where he criticized and mocked TriMet officials. He was arrested by transit police Oct. 17 after he used an automated text program to send Alstadt 31 messages in rapid succession.
"So what is it going to take to get safety on the buses?” the texts asked. “How many more lives will it take? 1? 10? 100? 1,000? A driver being killed while in the seat?”
Altstadt testified during this morning's sentencing hearing, saying Jensen's 31 text messages made her fear for her safety.
She said she contacted transit police after Jensen ignored her warning to stop texting her.
"He chose to laugh about it and say the agency was scared of him," Altstadt said. "I on my own decided to confront him. There was no conspiracy here, just me trying to protect myself."
During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors painted Jensen as a stalker who orchestrated an Internet bullying campaign through his blog.
"I know there has been a lot of talk online and in WW about Mr. Jensen being a journalist," said deputy district attorney John Copic. "What Mr. Jensen was trying to do was just be a cyberbully and hide under the First Amendment."
Jensen's attorney Christopher Marin described him as a dogged journalist and advocate for bus riders, who was asking questions in the public interest.
"The phone in question is paid for by taxpayer dollars," Marin said. "I feel that three years [without contact] is unprecedented."
(UPDATE, 3 pm: Altstadt says Marin's court statement is incorrect. She says she paid for her phone, and pays her phone bills, though TriMet reimburses her data plan so she can check email.)
Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Angel Lopez told Jensen if he followed the terms of the no-contact order for 18 months, Lopez would consider lifting the ban then.
Lopez appeared scornful of Jensen throughout the hearing, comparing him to a blogger who had run an extortion site where he accused people of having sexually-transmitted diseases.
"Mr. Jensen, you seem to enjoy being bathed in public attention," Lopez said. "You have my attention. What do you want to say?"
Jensen chose not to make a statement during the hearing. Afterward, he told WW he does not plan to blog about TriMet again. (He shut down his website, Portland Transit Lane, in December.)
"I'm comfortable with what's happened," Jensen said. "This chapter of my life is closed, and I'm ready to move on to bigger and better things."
Altstadt declined comment to WW. TriMet director of communications Mary Fetsch says the agency also declines comment.