Right-Wing Think Tank Protected “Violent” Exec Who Allegedly Stalked a Colleague

“They were very responsive to donors, but very hands off in terms of its employees,” a former female staffer, who said she filed complaints about Koprowski’s abusive tirades, told HuffPost. “There wasn’t a lot of responsiveness if you had a complaint about another employee. It was very much, ‘you can deal with it yourself.’”

“There’s protected status that is given to people who are friends with people who donate large sums of money,” said the former staffer, noting that work culture there made the woman who accused Koprowski of stalking “scared” to report him to higher-ups because she expected them to have his back.

“It was outrageous, the things that happened at Heartland,” she added. “It was just crazy. The whole thing with Gene [Koprowski], to see an organization not take action at all after knowing that someone in their organization was being stalked and harassed, was disappointing to say the least.”

According to the police report the woman filed, the woman worked from home the day after complaining to human resources, too afraid, a former colleague said, to come into the office. That day, Koprowski sent the woman an early-morning email. “I am worried about your health,” he wrote in English. Then, in Polish: “May the Lord heal you from illness.” He concluded, in Polish: “You were my joy … my love for you always.” The police included a translation in their report.

“I am worried about your health,” he wrote in English. Then, in Polish: “May the Lord heal you from illness.” He concluded, in Polish: “You were my joy … my love for you always.” The police included a translation in their report.

The next day, Oct. 21, an attorney working for the woman sent Koprowski a cease and desist letter. He responded by calling her a liar and, according to the police report, insisting he hadn’t contacted her and that she had been stalking him.

The woman told police she received a Halloween card in her mailbox the next day with a return address that listed a P.O. box in Koprowski’s name. “Let’s stay in touch! Gene,” the card read, with a smiley drawn after his name, according to the police report. The woman and her boyfriend continued to receive bizarre emails and calls that they believed were from Koprowski, including one in which he told the boyfriend he’d had sex with the woman on a work trip.

This led her to file the report with the Tinley Park police on Oct. 26. A Will County judge ordered Koprowski to appear at a hearing the following month, and on Oct. 28 issued an order of protection that barred Koprowski from contacting the woman.

But the police reports show Koprowski continued to contact the woman, sending a series of emails between Nov. 28 and Dec. 6. On Dec. 17, Tinley Park police arrested Koprowski for violating the order. The next day, the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office charged Koprowski on three counts of violating a stalking no-contact order, a misdemeanor in Illinois. He hired Andy Sotiropoulos, the attorney who represented him before Morris.

While an intentional violation of a no-contact order is a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois, a second or subsequent violation can escalate to a Class 4 felony, according to a legal analysis on the Illinois State Bar Association’s website by Lori Levin, a Chicago attorney who handles domestic violence and stalking cases. Thomas Glasgow, founder of the Schaumburg, Illinois-based law firm Glasgow & Olsson, said how someone is charged for violating a stalking no-contact can vary by case.

“The person may have violated the order of protection, and in a vacuum, each of those charges is a misdemeanor,” Glasgow told HuffPost. “But when you have multiple charges, that enhances it.”

Five months after his initial misdemeanor charges, a grand jury indicted Koprowski on two felony charges of stalking, arguing that, under an existing cyberstalking statute, his repeated contact with the woman knowingly caused her emotional distress.

On May 23, 2016, Sotiropoulos appeared in court and said he would no longer work for Koprowski. Reached by phone, Sotiropoulos declined to comment, citing “attorney-client privilege.”

“I know where this is going and I don’t want it either way,” he said after asking from which outlet the reporter was calling. “It’s done and over.”

It’s unclear when Morris took over the case. But in September 2017, he filed a motion to dismiss the felony charges, arguing that an appeals court ruling that found the cyberstalking law unconstitutional and that “ordinary, daily life consists of a series of encounters, events, conduct and speech that cause emotional distress,” makes “such a standard … nonsensical.”

“If wooing a potential friend, lover, or romantic partner who is not interested in the wooer is a criminal act, then every human on the planet, male and female, runs the risk at one time or another in life of being a criminal under such a standard,” Morris wrote in the court filing.

In December, the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped two felony charges against him. That same month, Morris filed a motion to dismiss misdemeanor charges of violating the no-contact order, and a Will County Circuit Court judge declined to renew the woman’s order of protection. Koprowski is due back in court on Feb. 1 for another hearing.

After HuffPost emailed Heartland spokesman Jim Lakely more than a dozen detailed questions, the organization responded by posting the aforementioned statement on its website, denying what it described as “false allegations” by a former employee.

“We understand HuffPost may be writing an article based on a disgruntled former employee’s false allegations that The Heartland Institute has tolerated sexual harassment in the past. The accusation is completely false,” Bast said in the statement. “Heartland always has had policies and procedures in place to ensure a professional and safe environment for its employees.”

Heartland then linked to a 2014 Gawker article that detailed sexual harassment allegations made against a former managing editor at HuffPost, and a recent Gizmodo story that accused the site’s former editor-in-chief, Arianna Huffington, of ignoring the alleged sexual misconduct.

After this story published, Heartland reposted its statement on its website under the headline: “HUFFPOST ATTEMPTS TO SMEAR HEARTLAND AGAIN.” 

Heartland did not respond to questions about where the organization stands on Morris’ decision to represent its former employee. Neither Morris nor Koprowski returned calls and emails requesting comment.

This article was updated to include the latest statement from Heartland.