A former Winnipeg nurse used the Canadian Border Services Agency, Winnipeg police and dating website Ashley Madison as weapons in separate, unrelenting "campaigns of harassment" targeting a former manager and an uninterested object of her romantic affection, a court heard Tuesday.
Agnieszka Ciochon-Newton, 53, pleaded guilty to criminal harassment, public mischief, resisting arrest and other charges in a case equal parts Fatal Attraction and a human resources manager’s worst nightmare.
Ciochon-Newton remains in custody and will be sentenced at a later date.
Crown attorney Sheila Doe laid out the case against Ciochon-Newton in a detailed, nearly two-hour long submission, with provincial court Judge Keith Eyrikson regularly confirming whether she agreed with the facts.
"You heard a lot about (one victim) and frankly some of the terrible things you did to him," Eyrikson said. "You agree you did all of these things?"
"Yes, I do," replied Ciochon-Newton, who appeared remotely by video.
Court heard Ciochon-Newton was a registered nurse at St. Boniface General Hospital in 2013 when supervisors, concerned about her performance, placed her in a practice management program, with a manager overseeing her work.
Ciochon-Newton "was clearly showing displeasure with (the manager’s) instructions" and began bombarding senior hospital administrators, the Manitoba Nurses Union and College of Registered Nurses with letters and emails full of "derogatory remarks… and untrue allegations," Doe said.
Ciochon-Newton was placed on administrative leave and ultimately fired.
"It seems fair to say she focused a lot of anger about that on (the manager)," Doe said. "Over the next four years, the accused stalked, harassed and made false allegations about (the victim) to the point it essentially took over her life and was a significant factor in her retirement."
“Over the next four years, the accused stalked, harassed and made false allegations about (the victim) to the point it essentially took over her life and was a significant factor in her retirement.”
In September 2013, Ciochon-Newton contacted the Canadian Border Services Agency and claimed the victim was going to be "the next Connecticut shooter," prompting a call to the FBI, which opened an investigation into the victim’s activities. In December, Ciochon-Newton sent the woman a Christmas card alleging she had filed a U.S. lawsuit against her, and included a letter purporting to be from a U.S. lawyer.
In December 2016, Ciochon-Newton called the woman at work, and claimed she was sleeping with her husband. Over the next several months, Ciochon-Newton left the woman numerous voicemail messages containing "female shrieks, panting and sexualized moaning," Doe said.
Ciochon-Newton called city police in March 2017, claiming a man armed with a knife had been driving by her house and following her, and gave police the licence plate number of the victim’s husband’s car. Weeks later, she called police to say the victim was sitting in her car outside her apartment, armed with a gun. Ciochon-Newton made similar allegations in the months that followed.
"The Winnipeg Police Service entered into numerous investigations into all of this," Doe said.
In November 2017, lawyers for St. Boniface hospital — whose senior managers had also been deluged with hundreds of messages from the accused — filed for a protection order on behalf of the victim, at which point the harassment stopped, Doe said.
By this time, Ciochon-Newton had shifted her focus to another victim, a firefighter she met at a yard sale. Court heard the two exchanged phone numbers after Ciochon-Newton asked the man if he would be interested in doing some renovation work at her Osborne Village-area condo.
“She continued to send him several messages that had what he described as sexual undertones and he felt they were inappropriate.”
The man later met Ciochon-Newton for coffee at her home, but backed out of doing any work for her after comments that made him uncomfortable, Doe said.
"She continued to send him several messages that had what he described as sexual undertones and he felt they were inappropriate," Doe said.
As the man tried to distance himself from her, Ciochon-Newton continued to leave messages and letters for him, as well as "gift" packages outside his house.
The two hadn’t seen each other for about a year when in October 2019, Ciochon-Newton left the man a voicemail message saying she had Stage 3 cancer, was going blind and could no longer drive. The man replied with a sympathetic text, after which Ciochon-Newton "began sending many random messages over the next 48 hours," Doe said. The man didn’t respond, "feeling there was a problem."
Days later, the man and his girlfriend were sitting at his dining room table when Ciochon-Newton turned up on his deck and saw them through the window. Ciochon-Newton left and a barrage of angry text messages followed, calling the man "a cheater" and "worthless."
A week later, the man arrived home to find a stranger peering through his deck window. Asked what he was doing, the stranger said he was there to meet a woman he had talked to online "for an intimate encounter," Doe said.
Police arrested Ciochon–Newton days later and charged her with public mischief. Ciochon–Newton was “highly problematic in her conduct” and was charged with an additional count of resisting arrest after she bit a police constable.
"He was told what door to enter and to go straight upstairs for sex," Doe said. The victim "was very shaken. Either his daughter, who lived there, or his girlfriend could have been confronted by this stranger looking for sex."
Later that night, the victim received a text from a second man through dating website Ashley Madison, seeking directions to get into his house.
Over the next several days, Ciochon-Newton continued to harass the man, filing bogus complaints with his union and city police, and posting derogatory messages and doctored photographs on Facebook.
The man applied for and was granted a protection order against Ciochon-Newton in November 2019, only to see her apply for and be granted her own protection order against him last August.
"Armed with this protection order... she made several phone calls to police saying she can see him driving by her building, he is parked outside," Doe said.
When police questioned the man, he pointed to his newly installed security cameras and footage showing his car hadn't moved all night.
Police arrested Ciochon-Newton days later and charged her with public mischief. Ciochon-Newton was "highly problematic in her conduct" and was charged with an additional count of resisting arrest after she bit a police constable, Doe said.
Ciochon-Newton continued to level complaints against the man, alleging to police he had raped her. She also claimed the man had stolen a painting from her, which resulted in him being brought before a disciplinary hearing.
Ciochon-Newton pleaded guilty to additional counts of fraud, forgery and theft, involving an 88-year-old acquaintance from whom she stole and forged cheques for several thousand dollars last September.
She also pleaded guilty to public mischief after falsely accusing a Club Regent casino security guard of sexually assaulting her in a washroom. Ciochon-Newton filed the police complaint after security staff ejected her from the casino last August on suspicion she had been stealing items from a casino store.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.