ROCKPORT — A Peabody District Court judge has dismissed charges of larceny and obstruction of justice against a Rockport man who was accused of failing to deliver counter surveillance equipment to a Swiss company yesterday — and still faces a number of weapons charges as well.
Judge Richard Mori on Thursday dismissed the theft and obstruction charges against James Atkinson, 46, of 31R Broadway because the state prosecutor's witnesses — one from Switzerland and the other from Tennessee — did not show up for the trial, according to both Atkinson's attorney and the Essex County district attorney's office.
Atkinson had been arrested on the charges in 2009, after two foreign companies contacted Rockport Police alleging he failed to deliver on the counter surveillance gear he promised.
"When all the evidence and records came together, it irrefutably proved that I did absolutely nothing wrong," Atkinson said.
Carrie Kimball-Monahan, spokeswoman for the Essex County District Attorney's office, said the charges were dismissed because, without witnesses, the state couldn't prosecute. The charges have been in court for 2 1/2 years. Atkinson's attorney, Paul Andrews of Denner and Pellegrino LLP in Boston, said the state didn't have probable cause to charge Atkinson in the first place.
Atkinson's initial arrest came after a complaint from GAZ Turbine Services, a Swiss firm that produces technology and equipment for the oil and gas industry.
The Swiss company had contacted the Chamber in an attempt to find out if Atkinson's purported Granite Island Group was a real business. The caller told the Chamber that his company purchased surveillance equipment from Atkinson's company for over $32,000, but that it never arrived, according to a report written by Rockport officer Daniel Mahoney. The Chamber contacted police.
Atkinson reiterated Thursday that his company serves as a go-between for companies looking to purchase counter surveillance technology and companies that make it.
GAZ Turbine paid him $32,000 for the equipment, and he sent the money to Tennessee-based Research Electronics International. That company manufactures and ships the counter surveillance equipment. Without proper export documents stating the end user of the electronics, Atkinson said, the company can't ship them.
According to Andrews' motion to dismiss the charges, GAZ ordered the equipment in October 2009. Soon after, Atkinson paid REI for the equipment, but REI said it needed a letter declaring the end user of the electronics. GAZ didn't send that letter until Nov. 23, according to court documents.
Stephen Spring of Spring and Spring LLP in Louisiana, Atkinson's second attorney, said the charges shouldn't have been brought forward in the first place.
"(GAZ) used the police department for extortion, threatening criminal charges when they're the ones who didn't supply the proper documents," Spring said.
Andrews' motion also cited that, during Rockport Police's investigation, Atkinson and his attorneys stated that when Mahoney called him, he did so on a recorded line. A line, they stated, Mahoney didn't state was recorded until about seven minutes into the conversation.
Atkinson will face trial in Salem District Court on a total of 16 other charges stemming from his arrest, including several charges of possessing firearms and ammunition without a license, and possessing high-capacity firearms. Drug charges and an allegation that he illegally possessed a rocket launcher have also been dismissed.
He is also representing himself in his own civil rights suit targeting the town of Rockport and other defendants in the first Circuit Court of Appeals.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.