By LeaAnne Klentzman
A neighborhood dispute culminated in a conviction for a Katy woman in less than 30 minutes back in 2011, however, in May the 1st Court of Appeals reversed and acquitted her.
On December 16, 2011 Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey’s office announced the conviction of “Elisa Merrill Wilson by a jury of her peers after a four-day trial. After 30 minutes of deliberation, the jury found 58 year-old Elisa Wilson of Katy guilty of tormenting and threatening her neighbors between 2009 and 2010,” said a spokesman for Healey’s Office.
At the time prosecutors said that Elisa Merrill Wilson, her family, and two other families, became friends after moving into the posh Kelliwood Terrace neighborhood in 2009. As time progressed, issues arose between the Wilsons and another family hurling the neighborhood into turmoil as other neighbors ended up choosing sides in the dispute. Peace bond hearings were set, harassment allegations were leveled. Things between neighbors got so bad that complaints went to Child Protective Services (CPS ) alleging a child pornography ring at one house as well as accusations of prostitution.
At the time of trial prosecutor Amanda Bolin said, “For nearly a year, the complainant, as well as other neighbors, lost their ability to live in peace and in privacy due to Elisa Wilson’s actions. The jury sent a clear message that this type of harassing, annoying and offensive behavior constituted a crime and that it will not be tolerated in Fort Bend County.” After her conviction, Wilson was sentenced to a one-year probation, pay a $500 fine, attend anger management classes, and perform 100 hours of community service. Further Bolin said, “She (Wilson) must also undergo psychological evaluation and has been ordered to have no further contact with her victim or any of the families previously harassed.”
On May 9, 2013, all that changed. In a ruling the 1st Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and acquitted Ms. Wilson. In a published opinion the court said, “Wilson left just two of the six messages over a 30-day period—on August 31, 2009 and September 5, 2009. Both specifically related to Bailey’s driveway construction project. In the second message, Wilson reported that she saw cement in the gutters that needed to be cleaned up. Bailey testified that a mixture of dust from the cement and water was running down the gutter, and that she and her crew cleaned it. Even if the August 31 and September 5 calls occurred “in close enough proximity to properly be termed a single episode.”
“Bailey’s own testimony acknowledged a legitimate reason for the September 5 call, which negates any reasonable inference that Wilson left the message with the intent to harass Bailey, or that it was made in a manner reasonably likely to harass or annoy her; noting that “culpability is required as to the result of the conduct,” by showing that actor wants to cause the result of harassing or annoying his victim.”
The court also ruled that, “The four remaining messages occurred too far apart over the 10-month period to be considered “part of a single episode.”
The ruling went on to state, “Considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, we hold that no rational fact finder could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that Wilson made repeated telephone communications with the intent to harass Bailey.
Thus the Court concluded, “We hold that legally sufficient evidence does not support Wilson’s conviction for telephonic harassment. We therefore reverse the trial court’s judgment and render a judgment of acquittal.”
Ms. Wilson was represented in her appeal by Houston attorney Tim Hootman.