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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Woman pleads guilty in stalking case

Thomas Clouse Staff writer

A woman who has grown a beard as a sign of her activism, and once sought a Spokane City Council seat, pleaded guilty Tuesday in an unusual case of acquaintance stalking.

Paula Reynolds-Eblacas, 39, admitted no wrongdoing but acknowledged that she likely would be found guilty of violating a protection order if the case went to trial. She initially was charged with stalking Angela Friedrich, a 29-year-old woman she’d met while doing volunteer work.

“I pleaded guilty as an act of mercy so Ms. Friedrich would not be destroyed at trial,” Reynolds-Eblacas suggested Tuesday. The case illustrates a rare but still terrifying form of harassment known as acquaintance stalking. In an interview last year, Friedrich said she filed numerous police reports before authorities seriously considered pressing charges.

As a result, the single mother changed her life patterns and refused to allow her three daughters to answer the door or telephone.

Friedrich’s attorney, John Sklut, from the Center for Justice, said a civil anti-harassment order against Reynolds-Eblacas was set to expire Friday. It was replaced Tuesday by a two-year criminal protection order, barring Reynolds-Eblacas from contacting Friedrich.

“She is relieved,” Sklut said of Friedrich. “She is hopeful that it is truly over.”

The discord began in June 2002 when Friedrich and Reynolds-Eblacas had a brief friendship that was never romantic. But according to Friedrich, the friendship deteriorated when Reynolds-Eblacas – who describes herself as transgendered – became possessive and demanding.

Thus began an ongoing flood of phone calls, letters, flowers and even a threat by Reynolds-Eblacas that she would file a lawsuit to compel Friedrich to talk to her, according to court records.

In a taped telephone message on Dec. 18, 2004, at Friedrich’s home, for example, Reynolds-Eblacas said: “I’m going to prove that you are a homophobic liar. You will end up in a bad situation. I feel sorry for your children because you are their mother. This nightmare will not end.”

Assistant Public Defender Douglas Boe described his client as being “transgendered” and said she was making an Alford plea, which means she doesn’t believe she’s guilty but agreed to take the plea bargain rather than face trial.

“She is not undergoing a sex change or anything of that nature,” Boe said. “She grew the beard within the last year as kind of an experiment to see how people would react to her. She’s kind of done that in a way to establish her own identity as a human being, as one of God’s creatures.”

Moments after entering the guilty plea, Reynolds-Eblacas, who has an 8-year-old daughter, walked down the hallway and dismissed a civil lawsuit in which she was seeking monetary damages from Friedrich for libel and malicious harassment.

Again, the volunteer worker, who holds a master’s degree from the University of Washington, claimed the dismissal was simply a gesture of friendship for an overmatched opponent.

Friedrich “does not know what she was doing and I was not going to take advantage of her and follow through with this suit,” Reynolds-Eblacas said.

But Sklut, Friedrich’s attorney, didn’t exactly agree with that assessment.

“Certainly having just pleaded guilty in a criminal matter would have hurt (Reynolds-Eblacas) in her civil case,” Sklut said. “But the civil case from the beginning was frivolous. The civil suit was just a part of the ongoing harassment that Ms. Friedrich was forced to endure.”