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Evidence challenged in Craigslist sex extortion case

SALEM — A Springfield, Mass., man charged with attempting to extort thousands of dollars from a married man he met on Craigslist after the two had a sexual encounter suggested through his lawyer on Thursday that the alleged victim was not being truthful to police.

William Gray, 48, appeared in 10th Circuit Court in Salem on Thursday to challenge the evidence that led to him being arrested on May 9 for attempted theft by extortion.

Public defender Deanna Campbell argued that during two phone calls monitored by Salem police, Gray never explicitly said he was going to tell the alleged victim’s wife about the sexual encounter.

Campbell said the victim “has every motivation to stretch the truth,” and suggested that he owed Gray money.

She said Gray operated his own massage business.

Judge John Korbey found Salem police had enough probable cause for Gray’s arrest. He bound over the case to Rockingham County Superior Court where a grand jury could return an indictment.

The victim, identified in court papers as P.R., complained to Salem police on April 17 that Gray had already forced him to pay $3,000 for furniture on hold at a Bob’s Furniture store and wanted $2,400 more on a debit card.

Salem police Detective Michael White testified that the two men decided to meet at a Friendly’s restaurant before their sexual encounter.

Afterwards, Gray wanted a ride back to the restaurant, White said.

While riding as a passenger in the victim’s car, Gray “began to make statements that their encounter was recorded and he would disclose the encounter to his wife,” White testified. “He also began to recite personal information that the alleged victim did not give him.”

Gray, who claimed his first name was David, recited PR’s home address, and the name of his wife and daughter, White said.

Phone calls between the men continued.

On April 17, Gray told the victim he was calling from a nearby motel in Salem and “threatened to go to (the victim’s) house with his boys and his tell wife about his encounter” if the man refused to pay the money, White testified.

Police were only told about that phone conversation by the alleged victim, according to Campbell.

She said police had no recorded statements of her client making an explicit threat.

“Did he say the words in that 10-minute phone conversation, ‘I’m going to tell your wife if you don’t pay me?,’” Campbell asked White during cross examination.

White testified that the alleged threat was more implicit but clearly a threat.

Campbell also questioned White about presenting the alleged victim with a booking photo obtained from a news story by a Springfield-based television station. The story was about Gray being arrested in a similar extortion case involving a 76-year-old Connecticut man.

“You only handed him one picture,” Campbell said. “That’s not considered a proper lineup.”

Prosecutor Jason Grosky objected to the defense’s questioning about the photo, saying it was an evidence issue that did not deal directly with Gray’s arrest.

Charges in the Springfield, Mass., case were ultimately dropped by prosecutors, according to local news accounts.

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