B.C. woman charged in U.S. with harassment
The Canadian PressThursday, January 23, 2014
KENNEWICK, Wash. - A 25-year-old freelance journalist from British Columbia was formally charged on Thursday with a felony, five days after she was arrested in the United States over allegations she threatened to kill her hockey player boyfriend.
Tieja MacLaughlin, who has worked for several media outlets in Kelowna, was charged with one count of felony harassment, according to court documents. She remained in custody, with bail set at $50,000, and she was scheduled to appear in court in Kennewick, Wash., on Friday.
She is alleged to have threatened Jackson Playfair, a 19-year-old junior hockey player on the Tri-City Americans, who she had been dating since last summer, according to the documents. The charge includes a "domestic violence" allegation because they were in a relationship at the time.
None of the allegations have been tested in court, and police documents and court records indicate MacLaughlin denied threatening to kill Playfair when questioned by officers.
MacLaughlin's case — with its mix of hockey, accusations of infidelity, and a young journalist with a social media presence rife with photos for the taking — has generated headlines across Canada, the United States and abroad.
A prosecutor filed an affidavit with the Benton and Franklin Counties Superior Court on Thursday, offering new details about the allegations against MacLaughlin, some of which contradict earlier reports from Kennewick Police Department.
According to the affidavit, prepared by prosecuting attorney Brendan Siefken, MacLaughlin and Playfair had been in an "on again, off again" relationship since the summer of last year.
The affidavit says MacLaughlin was in Kelowna late last week, planning to visit Playfair in Kennewick that weekend, when Playfair disclosed during a phone call that he had "cheated" on MacLaughlin with someone he met in Spokane, Wash.
"The defendant became upset and began to make verbal threats towards him," says the affidavit, which contains unproven allegations.
"She advised him that by tomorrow night, he would be dead. Mr. Playfair advised that she threatened to kill him several times during the phone conversation."
Playfair told MacLaughlin not to visit Kennewick as planned, the document says. But the affidavit alleges MacLaughlin persisted.
"The defendant advised that she was coming down that day and that he did not have a choice, and that he needed to have things figured out or things were going to get very bad," the affidavit alleges.
The following morning, Playfair received additional messages from MacLaughlin indicating she was at the border and on her way to Kennewick, the documents allege. Police had earlier said MacLaughlin travelled from Paris, Ont., but the prosecutor's affidavit says she travelled from Kelowna, where she was living and working.
A posting to a Twitter account that appears to be maintained by MacLaughlin appears to suggest she crossed the border last Friday afternoon.
Playfair left for a game in Seattle — the Tri-City Americans' website indicates there was a game there on Friday night — and after the match he found messages from MacLaughlin indicating she was in the Kennewick area, the affidavit alleges.
"Based on the defendant's prior threats and her presence in the Tri-Cities, the victim became worried that she might carry out her threats to kill," the affidavit says.
He called police, who in turn visited MacLaughlin at a local Super 8 motel, the document claims. The affidavit alleges officers told MacLaughlin to stop contacting Playfair, but she subsequently sent him 20 to 25 text messages.
Police arrested MacLaughlin on Saturday, according to police documents filed with the court.
The Benton and Franklin Counties Office of Public Defense has previously confirmed MacLaughlin had been assigned a public defender. The office couldn't be reached for comment on Thursday.
MacLaughlin has worked as a freelance reporter for Castanet, an online news website based in Kelowna, and the Kelowna Daily Courier newspaper. Articles bearing her name have appeared in both publications, as recently as this month.
Playfair is originally from Fort St. James, B.C., according to biographical information on the team's website. He is the son of Phoenix Coyotes associate coach Jim Playfair, and his brother, Austyn Playfair, was signed to the Americans last year.
A spokesperson for the Tri-City Americans has previously declined comment on behalf of both the team and Playfair.
— By James Keller in Vancouver