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Stalker sentenced to probation for harassing elderly neighbor

Stalker sentenced to probation for harassing elderly neighbor

To the distress of his latest victim, stalker Michael Fuschino was sentenced Monday to three years o

To the distress of his latest victim, stalker Michael Fuschino was sentenced Monday to three years of probation for making hundreds of phone calls to her.

Fuschino, 48, of Ballston Spa, has been investigated and convicted of harassing behavior dating back to 1979, when he started sending threatening letters to a former high school classmate.

Over the years he has been convicted of illegally summoning unwanted services and deliveries, canceling utilities, attempting to have a car towed and placing obituaries and death notices in local newspapers.

He was sentenced to state prison in 1999 after a Schenectady County Court jury convicted him of 37 counts related to harassment of a Schenectady woman and her family.

Reached at home after the sentencing, his latest victim, an 86-year-old neighbor who said she received hundreds of hang-up calls over eight years, expressed disappointment when she heard that Fuschino didn’t get any jail time. She had asked the judge in a letter that he be put in jail.

“I just saw his car drive in his driveway,” she said Monday evening. “I was hoping I could have a year to relax.”

She said she fears Fuschino will retaliate because she turned him in to the police.

“I still worry his mind is going to snap someday,” she said. The Daily Gazette has agreed not to disclose the identity of his victim.

The calls to the woman stopped when police traced them to Fuschino in June 2009. He was arrested and charged with aggravated harassment, a misdemeanor.

He pleaded guilty to the charge in Ballston Spa Village Court two weeks ago, and Assistant District Attorney Richard Wendling asked Village Justice Tom Schroeder to sentence Fuschino to a year in the Saratoga County jail.

“The defendant has over 15 prior convictions for a variety of crimes, including at least three prior felony convictions, and is not only a predicate felony offender, but if charged with another felony, could be treated as a persistent felony offender,” Wendling wrote in a letter to the judge.

Schroeder spent 15 minutes explaining to Fuschino that he will be under close scrutiny of a probation officer, and any violation of the terms of his probation could lead to a sentence of a year in jail, which is the maximum he could have been sentenced to on Monday.

“If you violate your probation a year from now, two years from now, you can be sentenced to 12 months in jail,” Schroeder said.

He also issued an order of protection for Fuschino’s victim and warned that if that order is violated, Fuschino could face up to seven years in prison on a contempt of court conviction.

Fuschino’s mailbox is next to his victim’s, and Schroeder warned the convicted stalker not to get his mail if the woman is outside.

“When you do get your mail, don’t hang around reading it. Take it and get back to your house,” the judge said.

Part of the sentencing agreement prohibits Fuschino from using a telephone or any other electronic device to harass or stalk. Originally, the judge limited his phone use to making emergency, medical and family calls.

Assistant Public Defender Van Zwisohn said that limitations on his phone use were too strict, and Fuschino should be allowed to call a cab, a friend or set up a dinner reservation.

Schroeder offered to add the words “for recreational purposes,” to which Wendling immediately objected.

“The word recreational bothers me a little. It opens wide the window of interpretation,” he said. “I think the background shows we are dealing with a great deal of interpretation and manipulative behavior here, and I am fearful of that in the future.”

The judge then decided not to include any explanation of acceptable calls in his instructions, only the prohibited behavior.

Fuschino stood before the judge and shuffled from one foot to the other, at times sticking out his bottom lip. He asked what he is to do if he went out shopping and saw his victim in the store.

“You leave,” Zwisohn said before the judge could respond.

Schroeder said Fuschino is not to buy gifts for anyone outside of his immediate family without first talking with his probation officer.

“I think you should even go over your Christmas list with your probation officer,” he said. “You are not to buy a cellphone or set up an e-mail account without first discussing it with your probation officer.”

Fuschino has also been ordered to find a job and receive counseling as part of his probation orders.

Fuschino is on Social Security disability, but Schroeder said that does not preclude him from finding employment.

“I expect you to find a job or vocational placement,” he said.

District Attorney James Murphy III issued a written statement after the sentencing.

“We insisted that the defendant plead guilty to the charge. Once that occurs we can only recommend to the court, rather than dictate sentence,” it said. “While on probationary supervision, it is my hope that he receives in-patient psychiatric help.”

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