Ex-Adelphia employee guilty of being cable saboteur
Michael Kemly, the disgruntled Adelphia Communications employee who cut the cord on cable TV and internet service to the Vineyard on April 2, 2005, changed his plea from not guilty to guilty in Edgartown District Court on Sept. 21. Judge Gregory Williams sentenced Mr. Kemly to three concurrent sentences of two and a half years each, all suspended, on three charges of larceny and malicious destruction.
Mr. Kemly, an Edgartown resident then who now lives in Venice, Florida, will serve three years on probation. The judge ordered Mr. Kemly to pay Adelphia (now Comcast) $50,000 in restitution. He forbade Mr. Kemly to attempt to contact Adelphia (Comcast) employees or trespass on the company's property for the term of his probation. If Mr. Kemly fails to meet any of the terms of the probation, he will go to jail, the judge said. The judge agreed that Mr. Kemly may subscribe to cable, if he likes.
In a letter published in The Times this morning, Mr. Kemly apologized, but not without getting in a lick or two at his former employer. "Since it is now public record that I caused the cable outage in April 2005, I think it is proper to apologize to the people on Martha's Vineyard who were affected. I am sorry to you all for creating any discomfort, inconvenience, loss of revenue, or entertainment."
Then, "The moral of the story is, if you work at a place that causes frustration, depression and anger, get the hell out before it makes you go crazy."
Mr. Kemly's sabotage occurred on a Saturday afternoon. On the following Monday, Tisbury police, with the assistance of state police, arrested Mr. Kemly, then 47, at his Edgartown home.
He had cut the main fiber optic feed that carried Adelphia's cable television and internet signal to the Island, and he had stolen "mother boards" from five Adelphia fiber optic nodes, or switching stations, in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown.
Eight thousand Adelphia subscribers lost service. It was especially bad timing, and infuriating, because that Saturday's cable programming included the semi-final Final Four basketball games and the Nasdaq-100 woman's tennis finals. On Sunday it was the nail-biting, five-set men's tennis final, and opening day for Major League Baseball, with a much-anticipated Red Sox-Yankees showdown in New York.
Times reporter Ezra Blair also reported that "It was also a big news weekend, with nearly round-the-clock coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II."
Mr. Kemly's arrest followed a joint investigation in which a letter to the editor, written by Mr. Kemly and published on March 31 in The Times, suggested to investigators that Mr. Kemly might be the culprit. The letter included an expression of dissatisfaction with his employer.
"I worked at a communications company on-Island here until recently," Mr. Kemly wrote, "and during my three-year, eight-month employment, I saw 14 people come and go. Some left of their own accord, others left as did I, because the manager was insufferable."
Then Tisbury police Chief Ted Saulnier said, "It certainly seems as though he was an unhappy employee there, based upon that letter."
Last week, Mr. Kemly was ready for trial. His motion to move the trial off-Island had been rejected, but he had other motions for the court to consider. He asked that his letter to the editor be excluded, because it could not be proven that he wrote it. Assistant district attorney Laura Marshard, the prosecutor, presented witnesses to authenticate the letter as a product of Mr. Kemly and persuaded Judge Williams to reject the defense contention. Similarly, with regard to e-mails Mr. Kemly wrote to his Adelphia bosses, Ms. Marshard prevailed by arguing that the content of the e-mails, in which Mr. Kemly expressed his dissatisfaction with his superiors, together with his expressed views in conversations with other employees, were sufficient to show that he was the author in each case.
After losing the two motions, whose subject writings offered evidence of motivation, Mr. Kemly changed his plea, and Charles Morano, the defense attorney, worked out the deal with Ms. Marshard.
The cable Mr. Kemly cut carried three fiber optic lines that held a total of nearly 400 tiny hair-like glass fibers. To repair the cable, workers had to line up and reattach each corresponding fiber - a difficult and tedious task.
Adelphia brought a special fiber optic repair unit to the Island to reconnect the severed fibers. Even with high-tech equipment designed for the task, it took 30 hours of around-the-clock work to repair the damage. Adelphia had returned service to almost all of its customers by 5 am on Monday, April 4. Adelphia credited each customer's account for the out of service period, a total of about $19,000.
Some of this account is based on reporting by Ezra Blair.