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Message nets man suspended sentence

March 09, 1999

A Hagerstown man was given a 45-day suspended jail sentence Monday for telephone misuse.

Harry Ellsworth Portner, 54, of 305 B N. Colonial Drive, entered an Alford plea to the charge in Washington County Circuit Court.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant acknowledges the prosecution has enough evidence to gain a conviction, but does not admit guilt.

On July 19, a woman returned to her home after a brief trip and found on her answering machine an obscene message that had been left at 1 a.m. the day before, court records said.

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The woman contacted Bell Atlantic to have the call traced and it came back to Portner's number, according to Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Lisa Hardy.

In the meantime, a co-worker of the victim told her that a man had called their place of business to find out the victim's last name. And that information was given to him, Hardy said.

"It was quite disturbing to come home and hear this," the woman said, referring to the sexually explicit recorded message that was played in court.

The July 18 call was the second call from the same man, the victim told Circuit Judge Donald Beachley.

"The first time he called, he identified himself," she said. "He said he knew me from work."

Portner, whose prior criminal record was a 1993 conviction for an unrelated harassment, was silent at Monday's hearing.

In addition to the suspended jail sentence, Beachley placed Portner on probation for one year and ordered him to have no contact with the victim.

Portner was also fined $125.

- Marlo Barnhart

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