Judge increases bond to $500,000 in Electric Boat threatening case

Edward Lesniak of Coventry, R.I. appears in New London Superior Court Thursday, March 14, 2019.  Lesniak, a former Electric Boat employee is charged with threatening to kill his co-workers in text messages to another EB employee.  (courtesy of WTNH.com)
Edward Lesniak of Coventry, R.I. appears in New London Superior Court Thursday, March 14, 2019. Lesniak, a former Electric Boat employee is charged with threatening to kill his co-workers in text messages to another EB employee. (courtesy of WTNH.com)
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New London Superior Court Judge Karyl L. Carrasquilla increased the bond to $500,000 Thursday for a former Electric Boat employee accused of sending text messages in which he threatened to "go full blown genocide" and kill four coworkers at the submarine maker's plant in Groton.

Edward Lesniak, 39, of Coventry, R.I., was arraigned on two counts each of first-degree threatening and disorderly conduct. His initial bond was set at $200,000, but Carrasquilla said an increase was warranted based on the allegations.

"These charges are serious and significant and the facts are troubling," the judge said.

A bearded man in a white sports shirt, slacks and handcuffs, Lesniak looked into the gallery, where his wife was sitting, as a marshal escorted him back into the courthouse lockup area.

The judge ordered the Bail Commissioner's Office to put Lesniak on GPS monitoring if he posts the bond and to create "exclusion zones" prohibiting him from being near Electric Boat and the residences of the four coworkers. 

Carrasquilla ordered Lesniak to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Electric Boat spokewoman Liz Power said Thursday that "Electric Boat continues to cooperate with authorities regarding this situation.  Beyond that, we have no further comment."

According to an arrest warrant affidavit written by Groton City Police Detective Daniel Grimm, Lesniak sent two threatening texts to a person not identified in an arrest warrant affidavit in the case. That person was concerned for the well-being of coworkers at EB's Groton facility and contacted EB security and police.

A Feb. 28, 2019, text from Lesniak to the unidentified coworker obtained by police states, "I'm ready to kill..." and named four co-workers in the text message.

"Ya I'm ready to go full blown genocide," the text continues.

On Thursday, March 7, while overseas in Scotland on a work program through EB, Lesniak conversed by text message with the same co-worker and stated, "I will be at the bar all weekend smoking. Than in groton Monday killing. Probibly jail Tuesday," the affidavit states.

EB security investigators on Friday brought the text messages to the attention of Groton City police, who obtained an arrest warrant that day. EB security personnel also notified Coventry, R.I., police that Lesniak may have weapons at his home at 10 Marjorie St., including a .50 caliber sniper rifle hidden in a false wall in his basement. Police said they seized a .50 caliber rifle, a shotgun and multiple handguns.

The judge on Thursday also ordered Lesniak to turn over remaining firearms that he indicated are stored in safes.

Lesniak's wife was supposed to fly to Scotland to meet with Lesniak. Electric Boat canceled her flight and informed Lesniak he needed to report back to the U.S. and be in Groton at the Electric Boat security office on Monday morning.

He was arrested by federal customs agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport when he arrived from Scotland on Saturday. He was held as a fugitive from justice by the New York Port Authority Police. He appeared in court in New York City and waived extradition.

Bail Commissioner Timothy Gilman said Lesniak told him he had worked at Electric Boat for five years and had no prior criminal record. Lesniak reported no substance abuse or mental health issues. Public Defender Sean Kelly, who stood with Lesniak for the arraignment, said it was unclear whether Electric Boat, which indicated they would be terminating Lesniak, has completed the process. Spokesman Liz Power could not immediately be reached for comment.

Prosecutor David J. Smith said the texts are "alarming," and the state is concerned for the safety of the public and the Electric Boat employees. He said Lesniak indicated he has access to "vast amount of weapons" and asked that the Coventry Police be allowed to seize them.

Kelly, the public defender, said the law regarding threats is vague and cited the 2015 reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court of a Pennsylvania resident Anthony Elonis' conviction of threatening his wife via Facebook texts that he said were self-styled rap lyrics.  The court determined the posts were not "true threats."  

"We have a person who is out of the country who sent texts to a friend," Kelly said of Lesniak. "The question of whether or not it's a true threat is very much at issue."

Judge Carrasquilla said the First Amendment claim could be addressed as the case proceeds.

Lesniak's next court date is March 25.

k.florin@theday.com

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