by Daryl Slade
(ALBERTA, CANADA) Annoyed at his neighbours calling city bylaw enforcement about him and another neighbour, Michael Kenzie MacLeod embarked on a nine-month spree of ruthlessly harassing them through the Internet.
MacLeod, 35, who said he was formerly friends with Robert and Kathy Smith, set up e-mail accounts in their name that resulted in fictitious ads being placed on a local Internet website to sell merchandise.
As a result of personal ads, which contained her name and address, Kathy Smith received hundreds of phone calls from people wishing to buy items and obscene calls and visits to their door from men who believed they had corresponded with her about having sexual encounters.
MacLeod pleaded guilty Thursday to criminal harassment.
Crown prosecutor Nadine Nesbitt, who argued for a conditional jail sentence of 18 months with house arrest, said in reading an agreed statement of facts in court Thursday that MacLeod posed in the e-mails as being Kathy Smith.
Smith said in her victim impact statement that MacLeod’s actions were “relentless psychological torture” that caused her family to fear for her life.
“I could have been killed by a stranger sent to our door,” she said, choking back tears. Due to the proximity of the offender, I was deprived of peace in my own home. My family and I were selected targets.
“I felt like I was imprisoned in my own home. I was face to face with an unidentified man . . . today, I saw my attacker for the first time and, even though it’s been over for a year, I still live in fear.”
Nesbitt said the offender’s actions were often very disturbing in nature.
“On Sept. 6, 2008, Kathy Smith received a phone call from an unknown male that was very sexually graphic,” she told provincial court Judge Anne Brown. “The male told Kathy Smith in very vulgar terms what he would like to do with her sexually. The male called (her) several times and told her he was responding to her personal ad on usedcalgary.com and he was the person still communicating with her using her e-mail address.”
That man was eventually traced through a pay phone and video surveillance and, although not charged by police, was fired from his job.
Also, Kathy Smith received an “e-mail bomb” from MacLeod, which included 250 similar e-mails over a couple of hours on Jan. 17, 2009, virtually crippling her system.
It purported to be from the Canadian Mental Health Association and was entitled, “CMHA are watching you.”
The offender also used another neighbour’s unsecured wireless router to send many of the e-mails, resulting in police tracing them to the neighbours’ home, seizing their computers and taking them in for questioning.
MacLeod also posted many of the fictitious ads using his laptop computer while visiting China and Orlando, Fla.
Nesbitt said part of his sentence should include a condition that he take counselling for anger management. Defence lawyer Jim Lutz sought a similar conditional sentence, albeit 12 months long.
He noted his client believed he just set up the calls or meetings through the ads and did not have control over what happened afterward.
That prompted Brown to quip, “It’s a bit like loading a weapon and giving it to someone.”
Robert Smith said in his victim impact statement that he and his family have been devastated by the crimes that still affect them because, despite efforts by police to remove any reference to the ads, they still can be called up and have their home address on them.
They have had to change phone numbers and e-mail addresses they have used for 20 years.
“We have been and still are paralyzed from this crime. I wake up at night thinking about these crimes,” Smith said in his statement. “We don’t know who has our phone number or address and will show up at our door.
“For four months in 2008, Kathy was harassed with phone calls, some saying they were coming to our house. The callers also seemed to know when I was leaving. One caller said I just left and said he and a friend were coming to our house later that day.”
MacLeod apologized to the Smiths for his actions before the judge adjourned sentencing.
“I wasn’t fully aware of all the impact it had on you, until I heard your statements today,” he said. “I’m sorry for that.”
Brown will sentence him on June 3.