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Valley Stream man gets probation in neighbor dispute that sparked protests

John McEneaney leaves the Nassau County District Court

John McEneaney leaves the Nassau County District Court in Hempstead on Oct. 29, 2021. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A judge sentenced a Valley Stream man on Wednesday to three years of probation to cap off a case involving a yearslong dispute between the defendant and a next-door neighbor who put a sign on her front door alleging racial harassment.

John McEneaney, 58, previously pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and had to complete an online anti-racism class before his sentencing on the misdemeanor in Nassau County District Court.

Judge Valerie Alexander also signed an order of protection on Wednesday prohibiting McEneaney, who is white, from any contact with complainant Jennifer McLeggan, who is Black.

Authorities arrested McEneaney and his girlfriend, Mindy Canarick, who also is white, in August 2020 after alleging they carried out "a pattern of harassing conduct" against McLeggan.

Prosecutors said previously they had found no evidence of hate crimes.

That July, McLeggan put a sign on her Sapir Street home detailing her complaints — sparking large demonstrations at which protesters waved signs with the social media slogan #standwithjennifer. The registered nurse, now 40, lived in the home with her daughter, then a toddler.

"My neighbors have been racially harassing me since I purchased my home … They have said that I can be erased … I live in FEAR in my home," McLeggan’s door sign said in part.

On Wednesday, McEneaney’s court-appointed attorney, Joe Megale, declined to comment after leaving the courtroom with McEneaney and Canarick.

"The whole thing is messed up," McEneaney said when asked for comment.

"Get out of our face," Canarick, 54, interjected from several feet away. "We have no comment."

Last March, a judge sentenced Canarick to a one-year conditional discharge after she finished a program about understanding diversity and inclusion and also ordered her to stay away from McLeggan. Canarick admitted a noncriminal harassment violation to settle her part in the case after her arrest on a misdemeanor criminal tampering charge.

As part of McEneaney’s plea deal, Alexander also dropped a misdemeanor harassment charge against him. In October, he admitted shooting a street sign with a pellet gun amid the long-running dispute with McLeggan.

"Stay away from her wherever she may be," the judge told McEneaney on Wednesday.

Nassau prosecutors started an investigation after McLeggan put up her sign, finding the harassment began after McLeggan moved into her home while pregnant in 2017. Police said before the couple’s arrests that there had been close to 50 calls for police service between the parties.

Prosecutors had alleged the harassment included McEneaney repeatedly shooting a pellet gun in a dangerous way, leaving pellets on McLeggan’s lawn and denting a street sign, along with Canarick putting what looked to be feces in front of McLeggan’s home.

McLeggan also had complained publicly about dead squirrels being left by her house, the neighbors "having guns seen on video" and McEneaney wearing blackface. But McEneaney said after the couple’s 2020 court arraignments that he was "not racist" and that he and Canarick were "the victims."

Nassau District Attorney's Office spokesman Brendan Brosh said in a statement Wednesday that McEneaney's behavior "crossed the line from being a bad neighbor to criminal conduct."

He added that his office was "grateful to the many advocates who helped us investigate this case" and thanked McLeggan for her cooperation.

"It’s been a very long journey to justice for Jennifer," McLeggan’s attorney, Heather Palmore, said in a phone interview.

Palmore said it wasn’t until McLeggan "found her own voice and publicized what was going on" that police started to act on the issue — a probe she said prosecutors picked up.

"Valley Stream is a perfect example of what a diverse community should look like on the outside, but there are internal barriers for people who live in these communities that are not being discussed," Palmore said.

"I think Jennifer McLeggan is like a prototype or an example of the barriers that many Black and brown people who have settled on Long Island have had to deal with for decades," Palmore added.

She said McLeggan has moved out of her Valley Stream home, but still owns the residence.

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