By Dane Schiller
Soon after a Massachusetts college student dumped her Houston-area fiancé, he sent her email and text messages to find out what happened, maybe win her back.
It didn't work. Things got ugly.
The ex-boyfriend is now accused of unleashing a torrent of hundreds of messages that grew so violent that the woman sought help from the FBI.
"I will tear you limb from limb," read one of the messages, according to copies shared with a magistrate. "I want to watch you suffer" and "I will come for you," read others.
Federal prosecutors accuse Christopher Hlavinka, 24, of using the Internet to cause "substantial emotional distress." He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
On Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith ordered Hlavinka, who was first taken into custody in June, to be released to his family pending trial. He also is to be tracked by GPS and largely confined to home and is not allowed to use computers or cell- phones with Web access.
One email can land him back behind bars and facing even more time.
Spotlight on stalking
The case highlights increasing concern about online harassment and stalking.
Hlavinka's former fiancée, identified in court by the initials S.H., was pushed to the edge by the harassment, according to the FBI. She moved multiple times to hide and sought psychological counseling as well as police protection.
FBI Special Agent Ryan McKee testified that Hlavinka mocked a protective order as well as police, and sent personal information about S.H. to her family and associates. "Jail does not scare me," Hlavinka reportedly told her. "Isn't it cute you think you can get protection against me?"
Hlavinka's computer showed he went to Google maps and other sites to research where S.H. and her parents lived, McKee said.
Defense attorney Brian Laviage argued for Hlavinka's conditional release at the hearing, saying his client has no criminal record; no history of physical violence; and that he belonged with his family and getting help rather than in prison.
He said Hlavinka's arrests, first by Fort Bend authorities and then by federal agents, and his time behind bars helped him accept that the relationship is over. He just wants to get on with his life, Laviage said.
David Buss, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said by phone that stalkers usually exhibit three major motivations: They either want to get back together with the ex-partner, to interfere with an ex's romantic life, or to exact revenge.
"Cyber-stalking can be especially vicious because the stalkers are sitting behind computers, and so feel that they can stalk with the safety of their own house or work," he said.