Judge declines to block Washington cyberstalking law

SEATTLE (AP) — A federal judge has declined to block Washington’s cyberstalking law — despite his concerns about its constitutionality.

In a ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton in Tacoma agreed with the state Attorney General’s Office that he should refrain from ruling on the matter because the man who challenged the law also has a related appeal in state court.

A retired Air Force major named Richard L. Rynearson III, of Bainbridge Island, sued to block the law, saying it’s unconstitutional because, among other things, it bars online speech designed to embarrass other people.

Rynearson argued that the law criminalizes speech otherwise protected by the First Amendment, and he said the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office had threatened to prosecute him for posts that criticized — but did not threaten — a local community activist.

The federal judge noted that Rynearson is appealing a state court protection order the community activist obtained against him, and the Kitsap County Superior Court should be allowed to rule.