A Cooperstown, New York, couple, who often complained about their neighbor to a district attorney, were taken by surprise when charges were filed against them.
Paul Sohacki and Katherine Gannon live on 12 scenic acres in Otsego County, New York. They say their neighbor Gene Ellis, who lives on more than 50 acres, attempted to steal their land. It all started, the couple recalls, because Ellis’ driveway crossed a sliver of their land.
“He never asked permission. He said, ‘You’re not going to prevent us from driving on this driveway,’” Gannon told ABC News’ “20/20.”
“He was redefining the border closer and closer to our house. We had to get the land surveyed and see who owned what,” Sohacki told “20/20.”
Watch the full story on ABC News’ “20/20” on Friday, Jan. 2 at 10 p.m. ET.
Ellis declined a request from “20/20” for an interview.
Gannon and Sohacki sued, and then settled. Ellis agreed to move his driveway off of their property. But Sohacki and Cannon kept their cameras rolling.
The couple said that they had to film Ellis to document what they say was trespassing and menacing behavior. Soon cameras covered their property, and they supplemented their security cameras with cameras in their cars and wore body cameras everywhere they went.
“It was a reality show,” Sohacki said.
Sohacki and Gannon took their videos to the County District Attorney, John Muehl, pressuring him to take action against Ellis.
But the DA said Sohacki and Gannon’s videos were more revealing than they realized.
“It showed them actually committing a crime against him. All of these videos [were] the best evidence against themselves,” Muehl told “20/20.”
More than a year after that call the DA finally did something, but not the action Sohacki and Gannon expected.
“They were eventually arrested when we actually had some independent evidence of a witness, who was able to confirm that the Sohackis were following Mr. Ellis around and taking pictures of him,” Muehl said.
Sohacki and Gannon were charged with stalking their neighbor.
“But really, if it hadn’t been for this, Mr. Sohacki and Ms. Gannon bringing me the evidence against themselves, I wouldn’t have known, for sure, who to believe,” Muehl said. “But when I’ve got these videos where it’s clear that they are causing the issue.”
The couple never spent any time in jail, and eventually the charges were dropped. While they believe there was a conspiracy against them by Muehl and Ellis’ family and friends, the DA said that claim is incorrect.
“I believe they are obsessed with Gene Ellis,” Muehl said.
“[I’m] not obsessed, but it did take a lot of time. Because of the situation, we had to spend a lot of time documenting,” Gannon said.
“It actually is very rational behavior if you were in the situation that we were in. It was the logical, smart thing to do to protect our family.”
After the entire ordeal, Ellis moved. But Sohacki and Gannon are also moving, relocating for Sohacki’s work.
“Without a doubt, it was definitely worth it. What it did, it actually ended up not being a fight about the land. It was more of a fight about justice,” Sohacki said.
“The point was, there was a bully,” Gannon said.
“That was the issue for us: always respectfully saying, ‘No, you can’t do this to our family. It’s not right. It’s against the law. You can’t do it.’”