Man who entombed Verizon worker gets probation, anger management

verizon store
Credit: Mike Mozart

Because no one was physically injured or worse, headline writers such as yours truly felt able to characterize the August 2013 incident thusly: “Verizon worker thankful 911 operator could hear him now.”

Today the 73-year-old Massachusetts man who perpetrated the criminal act against that Verizon worker must be equally thankful that a lenient judge has sentenced him to only a year of probation plus an apparently long-overdue anger management class.

From a story in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

A Westboro man who angrily locked a Verizon worker in an underground utility vault pleaded guilty Tuesday in Worcester Superior Court to kidnapping.

Judge Daniel M. Wrenn sentenced Howard W. Cook, Jr., 73, of 12 Chestnut St., Westboro, to one year of probation, with six months of it supervised, and ordered him to stay away from the victim and other Verizon technicians and to complete an anger management program. He faced up to 10 years in state prison for the kidnapping charge.

The family of the Verizon technician, Michael Hathaway of Worcester, said they are unhappy with the disposition that was negotiated beforehand as part of Mr. Cook's agreement to change his initial not-guilty plea. They had asked that Mr. Cook be on probation for 5 years and be placed on house arrest, to experience confinement like he had imposed on Mr. Hathaway, who as a result now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Defense attorney James J. Gribouski, in asking for the more lenient sentencing, pointed out that Mr. Cook does not have a criminal record.

Cook may not have a criminal record, but he has a well-established history of being a hot-head, according to the T&G story. The provocation in this case? Cook was upset that Hathaway had parked his Verizon truck on the grass of Cook’s self-storage business. He’s very lucky not to be in prison because the victim was fortunate enough to have had his cell phone with him and was able to dial 911 after Cook locked him inside that vault.

There are civil suits pending. Cook’s luck may yet run out.

(UPDATE: Very next day, very same small Massachusetts town, and a striking Verizon worker is struck by a pickup truck driven by a replacement worker who police say was drunk ... at 8 o'clock in the morning.)

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