(CNN)Two Long Island residents were arrested and charged on Monday for allegedly harassing and tampering with their neighbor's property following a three-year back and forth between the two households.
New York couple arrested for allegedly harassing neighbor after 3-year back and forth
The neighbor's pleas for help on social media gained the attention of sympathizers nationwide, including a high-profile civil rights attorney.
Jennifer McLeggan, a Black nurse who lives in Valley Stream, New York, says that her two neighbors began harassing her when she moved in to her home in 2017. According to a statement released by her lawyer, McLeggan's neighbors tried to intimidate her "with repeat patterns of harassment ... including smearing feces on her property and shooting their pellet gun at her and her child." McLeggan told CNN in July she has found dead animals, human and dog feces, and trash on her property.
John McEneaney, 57, who is White, was charged with harassment and criminal mischief for allegedly shooting pellet guns in his backyard often in the direction of and across McLeggen's backyard between April 2017 and July 2020, according to a criminal complaint against him. He is also charged with criminal mischief, accused of shooting pellet guns at a street sign, according to the complaint.
His girlfriend, Mindy Canarick, 53, who is also White, was charged with criminal tampering for allegedly leaving what appeared to be feces in front of McLeggan's home on one morning at the end of May 2019, according to the criminal complaint against her.
Both McEneaney and Canarick deny any wrongdoing via their attorney who told CNN Tuesday that he thinks charges were filed due to public pressure.
"He's one thousand percent confessing his innocence to any crime, even the smallest of misdemeanors," defense attorney John Kolodny said of McEneaney, adding that his client is being portrayed as a "bigot," and temporarily moved out of Valley Stream over the summer to avoid further controversy.
McLeggan's lawyer, Ben Crump, says she is the victim of racist neighbors.
"Jennifer serves on the front lines of the pandemic as a registered nurse. She selflessly cares for the sick, got sick herself, and survived -- all to come home to racist and prejudiced neighbors who tried to intimidate her and drive Ms. McLeggan and her precious little girl out of their community," Crump said in a statement Tuesday.
McLeggan has posted several images on her Twitter account including one of a man holding what appears to be a gun and another of what appears to be someone wearing a ski mask, as well as a video of a person throwing something on her property which she claims was feces. McLeggan also tweeted a picture of a sign that she posted on her front door. Among multiple claims on the sign, McLeggan wrote, "My neighbors have been racially harassing me since I purchased my home. ...They are now planting dead squirrels on my property and have told me to go back to where I came from." The sign ends, "I live in FEAR for my life at home. You will hear prayers coming from my home. I apologize for the noise."
Police have previously only acknowledged an investigation was underway, but would not confirm details on any incidents. Authorities said in July there have been at least 45 calls to police between McLeggan and the couple.
Kolodny, the accused couple's lawyer, told CNN Tuesday that McEneaney would sometimes use his backyard for target practice, and denied he shot at any individual. Kolodny says McEneaney surrendered a BB and a pellet gun to law enforcement upon request.
On advice of police, McEneaney stopped interacting with McLeggan a year ago, Kolodny said, adding, "John is not a racist, has never been a racist."
"He has never done anything wrong of a criminal nature."
"Never from my client's point of view, were there ever any racial aspects to the squabbles that they had."
Kolodny also denied that his clients were responsible for a dead squirrel found on McLeggan's property, but said a bag of dog feces placed by Canarick had been an accident after she had tried to toss them into a garbage receptacle and missed. He said his client did not want to go on to McLeggan's property to retrieve the feces. McLeggan won a $5,000 small claims court judgment over the incident.
After the repeated posts on social media documenting the alleged harassment, strangers, including a state senator, stood up to help McLeggan watch over her home.
"The sign on Jennifer McLeggan's door broke my heart and rallied a community to her aid," Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a news release announcing the arrests. "It also moved my office to investigate this matter because nobody should have to live in fear of harassment from their neighbors."
McLeggan tweeted her thanks Monday "from the bottom of my little heart" to Singas following the arrests of "her tormentors."
McEneaney and Canarick were arraigned on Monday, and are due back in court on October 9, according to the Nassau County district attorney's office.
Their attorney, Kolodny, said that if the case goes to trial, he will request a change of venue. "He feels he's being defamed," Kolodny said. "It's very sad."
Last month, McEneaney told CNN, "I'm upset about the whole thing. All of these allegations have absolutely ruined me," McEneaney said.