The Kelowna woman who sparked a cross-border media frenzy when she was arrested for allegedly making death threats against her teenage love interest should soon return home.
Tieja MacLaughlin, 25, reached a deal with the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office, which could see her wash her hands of the well-publicized legal entanglement, without charges by this time next year.
“What happened today in court is we filed an amended information and changed the charge from felony threat to a gross misdemeanour harassment,” said Brendan Siefken, the deputy prosecuting attorney for the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday afternoon.
Motivating the move, said Siefken, was a conversation with the Playfair family. Jackson Playfair, 19, was MacLaughlin’s boyfriend and the focus of her alleged flurry of death threats last month after he told her of his infidelity.
“We discussed the case thoroughly with them and they expressed their desire to have it resolved,” said Siefken.
The prosecutor’s office then looked at the evidence they had as well as MacLaughlin’s criminal history, and decided the misdemeanour was an appropriate amendment to the charge.
The maximum penalty for the lesser charge in Washington is 364 days and a $500 fine. But, it’s a penalty that MacLaughlin may never have to deal with, assuming she’s able to meet the conditions that the prosecutor’s office laid out for her Wednesday.
“She waived her right to a jury trial, and we agreed to continue the case for 12 months,” said Siefken. “The main conditions are that she have no new criminal violations for 12 months, she schedule and participate in outpatient cognitive behavioural therapy, once weekly for ten sessions, and she have no contact with the Playfair family.”
The therapy can be completed in Canada, Siefken said.
If MacLaughlin meets all the conditions, at the end of the 12 months the case will be dismissed.
Outside the courthouse, MacLaughlin was met by TV cameras, and she made this statement to KVEW TV: “At this point in time I’m not concerned about anything else other than going home.”
“I’ve been here four weeks,” she said. “It’s been emotionally exhausting, not only for me but for my family, too, and financially as well. We’ve taken a big hit so at this point in time I’m just concerned with getting myself back home to Canada.”
As a condition of her bail, MacLaughlin had been forced to stay in the US.
On her LinkedIn account, MacLaughlin, a freelance reporter, had listed herself as an employee of both Castanet and Shaw TV. She’s also written for the Kelowna Daily Courier.
Playfair told police he had been seeing MacLaughlin since July.
He is the son of NHL player and coach Jim Playfair.