An Ohio man allegedly set fire to a car belonging to City Court Judge Christopher Anderson and for two months harassed Anderson and a woman described as the Ohio man's estranged wife, federal court records state.
A federal indictment filed last week against Thomas Slapnicker, 26, of Mentor, Ohio, states Slapnicker posted bogus Internet pages posing as Anderson and the woman.
In the indictment, the victims are identified as "CA" and "CS." Court records filed in Ohio reference a string of police reports filed by Anderson and the woman with Lake Station police.
Police acknowledged on Thursday that the alleged victim "CA" was Anderson.
The complaints include reports of threatening phone calls and e-mail messages from Slapnicker to the couple in January and February. They also allege that Slapnicker made bogus Web pages on the site Myspace.com posing as Anderson and claiming the judge was a pedophile.
Lake Station Police turned the investigation over to federal authorities, Chief Mike Stills said.
"My first inclination was to have an outside agency look into it, with the victim being an elected official here," Stills said.
The Ohio records state Lake Station investigators have surveillance camera footage that shows a vehicle identical to one Slapnicker owns driving away from Anderson's home on Jan. 22, the night Anderson's car was set on fire.
Slapnicker allegedly called his estranged wife after the fire and threatened to burn down Anderson's house.
Slapnicker was arrested last week in Ohio. He is due for a hearing in federal court in Hammond today, his attorney, Roseann Ivanovich, said.
Slapnicker served nearly five years in the military, earning commendations for his conduct in combat, Ivanovich said. He was honorably discharged in 2007, she said. The couple has a 3-year-old child, she said.
"I was surprised this case was charged federally," she said Thursday. "He's a nice young guy who's got a lot to deal with from his service and his divorce."
(Of course it was charged Federally! In the U.S. cyberharassment is a FEDERAL CRIME. The fact it took ONLY 2 months to get charges? Is because the victim is a judge. Other victims wait YEARS for charges! But it does catch up with these pathological internet harassers.)
Cyber stalkers can be broadly categorized into three types. (Sometimes these categories overlap).
The obsessional cyberstalker
This is the most common type of cyberstalker and he or she usually has had a prior relationship with the victim. The stalker cannot come to terms with the fact that their relationship is over. He or she then takes a lot of trouble to coerce the victim into re-entering the relationship or has his or her revenge on the victim by inducing fear and making his or her life miserable.
One should not be misled by believing that this stalker is harmlessly in love and incapable of causing real harm.
The delusional cyberstalker
This type of stalker is usually unrelated to the intended victim. Most of the time, contact is achieved through the Internet. These stalkers suffer from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, psychopathy, bipolar disorder, narcissism, etc. This is why, sometimes, they are severely deluded into believing that their victim is in love with them even though they may have never met. These false beliefs keep them tied to their victims. This particular condition is also known as erotomania.
A delusional stalker is often a social outcast because of his or her mental illness and this makes him or her all the more desperate for companionship. Victims often tend to be married and from high profile professions such as celebrities, doctors, teachers, etc.
The most common type of stalker from this group is the type which pursues a celebrity and this syndrome is better known as the "obsessed fan syndrome". Delusional stalkers are very difficult to shake off.
The vengeful cyber stalker
These cyber stalkers are typically disgruntled employees and ex-spouses, ex-lovers or ex-friends who are resentful towards their victim due to some reason or the other. The motive for them is the feeling that THEY were the ones who have been victimized first and that they are merely teaching their victims a lesson.
His or her actions are similar to that of the obsessional stalker but they differ in motive. He or she is usually hell-bent on inducing fear in his or her victims by blackmailing or threatening them after taking over their computers.
WHAT MOTIVATES A CYBERSTALKER/ HARASSER?
The following are general motivations for any cyberstalker. The more fearful cyberstalkers tend to have more than one motive.
Anonymity of the Net
As mentioned before, the very nature of anonymous communications through the Internet makes it much easier to be a cyberstalker than a stalker in the real world.
Obsession for love
It is often the case that when relationships that begin online or in real life are halted abruptly by one person, the rejected lover cannot accept the end of the relationship. This leads to the rejected one pursuing his or her ex-lover online as well as offline.
One major problem related to obsessional stalking is that since it often starts off as real romance and intimacy, much personal information is shared between both persons involved. This makes it all the easier for the cyberstalker to harass his or her victim by using personal information against him or her or publicizing them.
Obsessions may also start as pastimes or for psychological reasons. These stalkers live in their own fantasy realms, so it is usually unnecessary for the victim to have done anything to attract his or her attention in the first place. Obsessional stalkers are usually jealous, possessive and manipulative people.
Revenge & Hate
It may start of as a mere argument blown out of proportion, leading eventually to a relationship based on intense hatred and a need for revenge. The criminal behavior may also be triggered off as a result of a rude comment posted online. The offending party may regret his or her action immediately but the offended party is not that easy to shake off.
Sometimes, hate-centred cyberstalking is triggered off for no reason at all. This is another indication of the psychological instability of cyberstalkers. Death threats and vulgar messages via email or through live chat messages are a common manifestation of this type of stalking.
Some stalkers are least interested in the damage they do to or how close they get to their victims. They are only interested in the process of gaining control over their victims just to prove to themselves or their friends that they can. They do not have any grudge against their victims but are simply using them as a means to exhibit their power and control to their friends or doing it just for the challenge. The unlucky victim is usually chosen at random.
Apart from the fact that they are highly manipulative and risk-taking, these stalkers do not suffer from any mental illness. Most people who receive threats online are fooled into believing that their harasser is more than capable of carrying out their threats. In fact, more often than not, this type of stalker is a child or teenager who cannot possibly have the means of carrying out the threats made.
IMPACT ON VICTIMS
Cyberstalking undermines the reputation and credibility of the Internet as a platform of information and for communication.
Being stalked can be an extremely fearful experience... Receiving messages filled with hatred or obsessive desire from someone whose face they have never seen before can be extremely terrifying. This is even more so if they start thinking that they themselves had done something wrong to deserve such treatment.
The knowledge that one is being continually pursued for whatever reason in the real or in the cyberworld is not something one handle if he or she keeps his or her fear inside. A new user of the Net may be so traumatized by such an experience that he or she may be too frightened to use the Net ever again. The worst thing that could happen is that the victim is convinced by the stalker to meet him or her in the real world and is then raped or assaulted or even murdered in a secluded area.
Such incidents severely undermine the reputation and credibility of the Internet as a worldwide platform of information and for communication.
The Ohio man charged with cyberstalking two Lake Station residents, one of whom is the city judge, will undergo a psychiatric evaluation before continuing with court hearings.
In a hearing Friday in Hammond federal court, Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry ordered the evaluation of Thomas Slapnicker, 26, of suburban Cleveland. Slapnicker's lawyer, Roseann Ivanovich, requested the evaluation.
Ivanovich told Cherry that Slapnicker is an Iraq war veteran suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. Slapnicker is also going through a divorce, Ivanovich said. She said that she was not convinced Slapnicker understands his situation, and she isn't sure he is capable of helping with his defense.
(PTSD is suffered by our victims... and our victims don't react this way. So clinical differences MUST be drawn between combat-related PTSD and trauma-related PTSD. The former's victims tend to act out, the latter's victims tend 'act IN.' - EOPC)
Cherry suspended hearings pending the evaluation.
Slapnicker remains jailed.
The federal investigation into Slapnicker started when someone set fire to Lake Station City Judge Christopher Anderson's car in his driveway about 2 a.m. one morning in late January or early February, said Lake Station Police Chief Mike Stills.
Anderson told police Slapnicker had been harassing and threatening him, Stills said. A detention order filed against Slapnicker in Ohio federal court describes Anderson as a "friend" of Slapnicker's wife. Anderson suggested Slapnicker as a suspect in the fire, Stills said.
Slapnicker has not been charged in the car fire, but he faces charges filed last week in Hammond federal court that he used MySpace and other Web sites to harass two Lake Station residents. Anderson is not mentioned in the indictment, but police have named him as one of the alleged victims.
Slapnicker is accused of using Web sites to invite people to one victim's home for sexual favors. The indictment states Slapnicker posed online as a second victim, using MySpace and other sites, to make that person appear to be a racist pedophile.
Slapnicker is charged with four counts of making threatening phone calls Feb. 12 and two counts of violating a protective order by interstate cyberstalking.
SUPPORT BOARD FOR STALKING VICTIMS
If you are being CYBERSTALKED or HARASSED EOPC CANNOT intervene for you - CLICK HERE for what to do Do not allow even law enforcement to tell you this is 'not a big deal.' Insist that they file charges and get a copy of the charges! Be a 'polite pest' and follow up frequently. Move up the ladder of command if you have to. Involve local politicians - many Representatives have people in their local offices to help citizens get the services THEIR TAX DOLLARS PAY FOR.
YOU CAN SHARE COPIES OF THE RELEVANT LAW WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT IF THEY DO NOT "GET IT'" (more links to the right regarding the law & cyberpaths, cyberstalking & cyberharassment)
Interstate Threatening Communications and Cyberstalking
- The statute governing threatening communications is 18 U.S.C. § 875.
- Whoever, with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years or both (b).
- Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both (c).
- Whoever, with intent to extort from any person, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to injure the property or reputation of the addressee or of another or the reputation of a deceased person or or threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both (d).
- Threatening Communications
- Threatening to injure property or defame
- Intent to communicate
- Communication in interstate commerce
- The communication is reasonably perceived by the recipient as threatening
- Threat of harm to a person. U.S. v. DeAndino, 958 F.2d 146 (6th Cir. 1992) (although not necessarily a specific person).
§ 875(c) Threatening Communications
- Intent requirement for 875(c)
- Intent to communicate
- Reasonably perceived by recipient as threat of bodily harm
- Subjective intent to threaten is not required. U.S. v. Morales, 272 F.3d 284 (5th Cir. 2001).
- Intent to make an interstate communication is also not required. U.S. v. Darby, 37 F.3d 1059 (4th Cir. 1994).
- Interstate commerce requirement -- An internet communication need only travel out of state to fulfill interstate commerce prong. U.S. v. Kammersell 196 F.3d 1137 (10th Cir. 1999).
U.S. v. Kammersell, 196 F.3d 1137 (10th Cir. 1999)
U.S. v. Morales, 272 F.3d 284 (5th Cir. 2001)
A communication is a threat if in its context it would have a reasonable tendency to create apprehension that its originator will act according to its tenor. The threat must be made knowingly which means voluntarily and intelligently and not by mistake or accident. To distinguish political hyperbole from a true threat, “in order to convict, a fact finder must determine that the recipient of the in-context threat reasonably feared it would be carried out.”
The Court found that the language of 18 U.S.C. § 875 doesn’t require intent to communicate the threat to the specific victim.
U.S. v. Alkhabaz, 103 F.3d 1492 (6th Cir. 2001)
- Facts: D posted stories depicting sexual violence to a usenet group. One of these stories involved the torture, rape, and murder of a young woman who shared the same name as one of D’s classmates at the University of Michigan. Some time after, D and his friend (computing from Ontario Canada) exchanged email messages expressing an interest in sexual violence.
- D was arrested under 18 U.S.C. § 875 for sending threatening interstate communications. The District Court dismissed the indictment against D, finding that his stories and messages did not constitute true threats and were protected speech. The government appealed the dismissal of the indictment.
Cyberstalking Statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2261A
* Whoever . . . [uses] any interactive computer service, or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce to engage in a course of conduct that causes substantial emotional distress to that person or places that person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to, any of the persons described in clauses (i) through (iii) of subparagraph
(B) . . .
- (i) . . . person;
- (ii) a member of the immediate family . . . of that person; or
- (iii) a spouse or intimate partner of that person;
Cyberstalking Statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2261A
History Behind 18 U.S.C. § 2261A
* Enacted as part of Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA).
* Created the federal crime of stalking, largely in response to highly publicized murder of actress Rebecca Shaeffer.
U.S. v. Bowker, 372 F.3d 365 (6th Cir. 2004).
* D argued that 18 U.S.C. § 2261 overbroadly included certain protected speech. The Court rejected this challenge as it found that D hadn’t pointed to anything in particular. The court also rejected D’s vagueness challenge, finding that the reasonable person standard in objectively discerning threatening behavior would apprise the reasonable person reading the statute of what conduct was prohibited. Further, it found harassment and intimidation to be words of common understanding.
U.S. v. Bell, 303 F.3d 1187 (9th Cir. 2002).
* “course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct comprised of two or more acts.”