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LOWELL -- In what one lawyer described as a "Hatfield vs. McCoys" battle between bickering Billerica neighbors, a Lowell Superior Court jury offered little financial compensation to either family for enduring their three-year bad-neighbor battle.
Following a weeklong trial, the jury found that neighbors Phillip and Barbara LeBlanc and John and Linda Murphy were nuisances toward each other and caused each other emotional distress. They awarded the LeBlancs, of 31 Tower Farm Road, a total of $35,000 in compensation, and the Murphys, of 35 Tower Farm Road, a total of $10,000.
Phillip LeBlanc, 65, who spent $100,000 in legal fees, said despite the financial burden his family has endured, "I'd do it again. I'm not going to let someone terrorize me."
Attorney John Collier, who represented the Murphys, said his clients feel "somewhat vindicated" by the jury's verdict in this "Hatfield vs. McCoys" situation.
Collier confirmed that the Murphys have put their Billerica house on the market and purchased a home in Florida, where they plan to move once all the legal issues are resolved.
LeBlanc's attorney, Robert Walker, declined to comment on the verdict. During the trial, Walker described John Murphy's behavior toward Phillip LeBlanc as an "intentional campaign of harassment."
That harassment included running a wood chipper unattended for hours at a time, leaving a bucket of foul-smelling dead squirrels chained to a fence between the two yards, and finding a pet dog dead with a box of poison next to it. Murphy was never charged in connection with the dog's death.
There would be a public display of the neighbors' animosity in 2006, when Murphy erected a large tarp between his house and the LeBlancs' house. Murphy testified that the tarp was to block the light from his neighbors' spotlights.
The 10-foot by 20-foot tarp also delivered a message to the LeBlancs, of 31 Tower Farm Road, that contained an expletive.
Linda Murphy also twice accused LeBlanc of exposing himself to her last November. LeBlanc was found innocent in Lowell District Court of open and gross lewdness. After learning of the charges, Tyngsboro police discontinued using him as a special police officer, causing him to lose thousands in extra income.
The LeBlancs sued the Murphys for intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, being a nuisance, trespassing, interference with Phillip LeBlanc's employment as a special police officer, abuse of power, defamation and malicious prosecution.
The jury awarded LeBlanc $30,000 for malicious prosecution and $5,000 for Murphy's assault on LeBlanc.
Murphy admitted to sufficient facts for seven charges: malicious destruction of property, witness intimidation, assault with a dangerous weapon, and four counts of criminal harassment.
Murphy was arrested in August for allegedly assaulting LeBlanc by kicking him the groin and right side of the knee after he saw him taking a photograph of Murphy's upside-down American flag. He is custody and that case is pending.
Murphy is scheduled for a motion/contempt hearing in Superior Court on Monday.
The Murphys filed a counterclaim alleging that the LeBlancs are liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress, being a nuisance, trespassing, invasion of property, defamation and slander.
Collier told the jury that Phillip LeBlanc irritated Murphy by his dogs' barking and the throwing of dog feces into Murphy's yard. The LeBlancs erected spotlights after their dog was killed that shone into the Murphy's bedroom, the Christmas display of bears that appeared to be "mooning" the Murphys, and the video cameras LeBlanc set up to capture his neighbors in the act, Collier said.
The jury awarded the Murphys $5,000 each for the invasion of privacy the cameras caused.
Leblanc and Murphy are former Marines. Both also are retired police officers, LeBlanc in Belmont and Murphy in Cambridge.
LeBlanc still has a pending $2,500 small-claims lawsuit against Murphy for allegedly using a BB gun to shoot up his house.
LeBlanc said he's been in touch with the Judge Judy show to see if this dispute could hit the airwaves.
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