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Would you knowingly hire a stalker?

July 23rd, 2008

Allegedly, reportedly, maybe, coulda, mighta…but since Michael A. Schwartz, counsel to former Philadelphia’s CBS3 anchor Larry Mendte, has stated that his client is expected to plead guilty to federal felony charges for privacy invasion, let’s just say that Mendte did in fact spy on his former co-anchor, Alycia Lane.

And let’s just also say that Larry Mendte is a stalker.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Mendte hacked into Lane’s email, “537 times in 146 days, checking in 10 or more times” on days when he oft indulged his aggressive desire to harm Lane. And these are just the times that the FBI can count. Reports indicate that this obsessive charade of smiling at Lane on camera while electronically stabbing her in the back went on for nearly two years, beginning with Mendte’s discovery that Lane was about to sign a contract worth more than his own.

Had his own carelessness (and sign of his sense of invincibility?) not exposed his secret—a co-worker noticed Lane’s Yahoo email account was open on a computer screen, weeks after she’d been let go by CBS3—what was to have been the natural conclusion of Mendte’s mental game?

His obsessive treachery had already factored largely into Lane losing her job, in damaging her reputation and employability, and in turning her into the high profile target of jokes. But he kept on spying. He kept on feeding the media tidbits about the fallen Philly star, months after she’d already been fired because, as the station put it, she’d “become the news” and so she could no longer report on it. (Question for Philadelphia Daily News gossip columnist Dan Gross, and the New York Posts’s Page Six: what did they know about the root of their source’s (alleged to be Mendte) info, and when did they know it?)

According to the Inquirer, US Attorney Laurie Magid considers Mendte’s snooping: “an attempt to undermine his former colleague’s ongoing legal cases.”

But, beyond the legal view, what Mendte did was harass and mentally torture Lane. How could she not have become paranoid that every move she made—and worse, every email conversation she had with her lawyers—wouldn’t end up in the news? How could she not have begun to wonder whether she was going crazy and that someone was out to get her?

That’s sick. Did Mendte plan to stop?

No one is all good or all bad. Philly.com offers a profile of Mendte that notes his many good works for charity, citing praise from the beneficiaries of his efforts. But people often do the right things for the wrong reasons. It’s always a fair question to ask what the real agenda might be for making a public show of beneficence. In this case, it’s more compelling to ask if Mendte’s good works were part of a campaign to engineer a perception of himself as the hero, more than it was about being purely altruistic.

Having been fired from CBS3 in June, Stu Bykovsy jokes in the Philadelphia Daily News that Mendte might land on his feet at Philly’s Fox29, co-anchoring with his wife and current Fox host Dawn Stensland. But if sanity has a place in broadcast news (does it?), Mendte should be finished in Philly.

That’s because while Schwartz claims that Mendte is cooperating with the Feds, and “will accept full responsibility for his actions,” his client has demonstrated not just a systematic pattern of utter disregard for the law, but a taste for stalking. If you’re the next news director Mendte asks for a job, do you want to chance he’ll indulge it again?

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