Cyberstalking

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Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Zen and the Constitutionality of Twitter 'Cyberstalking'

If you thought a spat between Buddhists couldn't devolve into a federal cyberstalking case of dubious constitutionality, consider the following.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Dolen v. Ryals (Lawsuit)

Date: 

12/22/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Julie Ryals, aka "The Design Shoppe"; Jane Doe Libel Cyberstalker; Mary Joanne Kidd; Jeffery Kidd; Mary Harvey

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas; United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida

Case Number: 

4:08-cv-03708; 8:09-CV-2120

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$6,300.00

Legal Counsel: 

Kent Rowald (for Julie Ryals, Mary Joanne Kidd, Jeffery Kidd, and Mary Harvey)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

On December 22, 2008, Deborah Dolen, author of several "Do It Yourself" craft books, sued Julie Ryals and an unknown poster, listed on the complaint as "Jane Doe Libel Cyberstalker," for negative statements about Dolen that appeared on BustedScammers.com.  Dolen, acting pro se, alleged internet fraud, cyberstalking, libel, defamation, and disparagement. She requested a temporary injunction shutting down Ryals' servers hosting The Design Shoppe.com and BustedScammers.com, as well as $100,000 for each "violation."

On January, 21, 2009, Dolen filed an amended complaint which added Mary Joanne Kidd, Jeffery Kidd, and Mary Harvey as defendants alleging that Mary Kidd was the co-owner of BustedScammers.com and that Jeff Kidd and Harvey committed libel through chat room activity.  Dolen also added counts of trade libel and copyright infringement.  

On February 18, 2009, Ryals filed an answer and counterclaims as well as a motion for summary judgment.  Ryals' answer denied that she had any ownership interest in BustedScammers.com, and her counterclaims alleged that Dolen defamed and slandered her on Topix.com.  Ryals' requested an injunction preventing Dolen from contacting her or posting information about her.  Ryals also alleges that Dolen is cybersquatting on JulieRyals.com and requests transfer of the domain name to her. The Kidds and Harvey submitted substantially similar answers, counterclaims, and motions for summary judgment.  

On February 27, 2009, the court determined Dolen's current claims may be adversely affected by her bankruptcy matter, and the court stayed the case until bankruptcy proceedings concluded.  The court lifted the stay and reinstated the defendants' claims against Dolen in September 2009.

On September 17, 2009, Kent Rowald, the defendants' lawyer, filed a third-party complaint against Dolen, claiming that Dolen had defamed him. The court severed Rowald's complaint from the case, and ordered both parties to remove from the Internet all critical comments each made about the other.

In October 2009, the court sua sponte ordered the case transferred to the Middle District of Florida.

On June 17, 2010, Dolen filed a second amended complaint, wherein she made claims of trademark infringement, defamation, false light, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Ryals. Dolen's new complaint made no claims against Mary Kidd, Jeffery Kidd, or Mary Harvey. Both Ryals and the Kidds filed answers and counterclaims. The Kidds also filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, based on their absence from the second amended complaint.

On October 19, 2010, Dolen moved to be allowed to file a third amended complaint.

On February 24, 2011, the court granted the Kidds' motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissed Dolen's claims against them with prejudice.  The court also dismissed the counterclaims the Kidds made in their response to Dolen's second amended complaint.  Further, the court denied Dolen's motion to file a third amended complaint.

Update:

April 18, 2011: A jury trial on the remaining claims in the case begins.

April 22, 2011: The court grants cross-motions for judgment as a matter of law, finding that Dolen had failed to present evidence legally sufficient to sustain her claims against Ryals, and that Ryals had failed to present evidence legally sufficient to sustain her counterclaim against Dolen.

April 25, 2011: The court enters judgment in favor of Ryals on Dolen's claims, and in favor of Dolen on Ryals's counterclaim.

May 5, 2011: The defendants move for an award of attorneys' fees, seeking $218,189.10 in attorney's fees and litigation costs.

Feburary 10, 2012: A magistrate judge issues a report and recommendation that the defendants be awarded $6,300 in attorney's fees, identifying twelve frivolous motions filed by the plaintiff. The magistrate rejects the defendants' argument for further fees and costs.

March 22, 2012: The court adopts the magistrate's report and recommendation, and orders the entry of judgment in favor of the defendants for 6,300.

March 23, 2012: Judgment enters consistent with the March 22 order.

CMLP Notes: 

Front page of BustedScammers implies that there was an e-mail threat too.  Worth contacting Ryals if possible to find out more.

Blogger with knowledge who offers to help: Dustin Cagnina 708-209-1746.

Source: Marc Randazza, via e-mail

GSPENCE COMMENTS UNPUBLISHED FOR VIOLATION OF COMMUNITY GUIDELINES (PERSONAL ATTACKS; FALSE CHARACTERIZATION OF THE COURT PROCEEDINGS) .  PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH.

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

State of Texas vs Gerald Russell

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Date: 

11/14/2008

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Gerald Russell

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

County Court at Law, Smith County (TX)

Case Number: 

002-84608-07; 002-84686-07

Legal Counsel: 

Pro Se

Publication Medium: 

Email
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

Note: User "grussell903," who submitted this threat entry, contributed some of the information included in the following description.

A Texas court barred amateur photographer Gerald Russell from accessing the Internet as part of his probation after he posted personal information about one of the jurors in his case.  At the time, Russell was on probation for unrelated misdemeanor convictions of criminal trespass and resisting a police search.

Russell sent a series of e-mails describing his side of the case to the foreman of the jury that convicted him of the misdemeanors.  The foreman then submitted a written statement to Texas authorities complaining about Russell's e-mails and stating that the e-mails were more annoying than threatening. As a result of the foreman's statement, the district attorney asked the court to amend Russell's probation to forbid him from contacting the foreman or any of the other jury members.  The court granted the additional restriction.

Sometime later, Russell uploaded a copy of the foreman's written statement to the Internet.  The statement included personal identifying information, including his Social Security Number, driver's license number, and home address. In response, the district attorney again asked the court to amend Russell's probation.  This time they requested that Russell be forbidden to access the Internet during the entirety of his probationary period.  The court again granted the request, ordering that Russell:

  • refrain from accessing the Internet during his probation;
  • remove "any and all information" he had posted to the Internet;
  • refrain from owning any Internet account or other form of Internet access, including access via cell phone or at work, until after his probation had ended; and
  • provide Texas authorities with information regarding Russell's Internet activities.
It is not clear whether the "any and all information" provision was intended to require Russell to take down only foreman's personal information or literally all information Russell had ever posted to the Internet. Russell removed the foreman's statement, though various blog posts and other court and police documents are still online.

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

David or Sam: Barton seems to have complained to police on grounds approximating harassment and publication of private facts, but there was no "Complaint" or other document spelling out explicit legal claims. I included those two claims in the Legal Claims field, but you can delete them if we only want to include claims when they have been filed in a court case

Threat Source: 

User Submission Form

Polich v. Nahmod

Date: 

07/11/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

David Nahmod

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

North Valley Justice Court, Maricopa County, Arizona

Case Number: 

CC2008-149566

Legal Counsel: 

Pro se

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Injunction Issued

Description: 

In July 2008, freelance writer and gay rights blogger David Nahmod, who blogs on David's Open Forum and on the gay news website www.lavenderliberal.com, was enjoined by an Arizona judge from posting online the names or hometown of a couple in Arizona that Nahmod claims interfered with his relationship with an ex-boyfriend.  

According to the SFWeekly.com, Nahmod was served with a restraining order effective for a year and enforceable in all states. Not only may Nahmod not approach the couple in Arizona, he also cannot do "anything that encourages others to harass" them, including posting identifying information online.

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Kruska v. Perverted Justice Foundation

Date: 

01/10/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Perverted Justice Foundation, Inc.; Xavier Von Erck; Christopher Brocious; Barabara Ochoa; Filmax Inc.; April Butler; David Butler; GoDaddy.com; Bob Parsons; MySpace.com; John Does 1-60

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization
Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Arizona

Case Number: 

2:08-cv-00054

Legal Counsel: 

Aileen Delcarmen Ocon, Marcus R Mumford, Peter B Morrison (Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom) (for PJFI, Von Erck); Steven Gerald Ford (Alvarez & Gilbert ) (for Brocious, Ochoa); Robert Christian Billar (Leyh Billar & Associates) (for Filmax.com, Bul

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Email
Social Network
Website
Wiki

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)

Description: 

Jan Kruska sued several anti-pedophile organizations, including Perverted Justice Foundation, Inc. ("PJFI"), and individuals affliliated with those organizations, as well as domain registrar GoDaddy.com and social networking site MySpace.com, after the organizations accused Kruska of being a predator, a pedophile, and pro-pedophile on various websites, including JanKruska.com and JanKruska.net. Kruska sued for defamation, copyright infringement, cyberstalking and harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations ("RICO") Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") in Arizona federal court.

In August 2007, self-described journalist Kruska began to receive what she described as "venomous" emails after she criticized the overbreadth of anti-pedophile laws. Soon after, the Absolute Zero United blog and PJFI's Wikisposure and Corporate Sex Offender websites posted accusations that Kruska was a convicted child molester and a pedophile, according to the complaint. The defendants allegedly posted similar accusations on MySpace.com, as well as on websitesJanKruska.com and JanKruska.net, both of which were registered byFilmax.com through GoDaddy.com. Some of the websites also allegedly posted personal information about Kruska, including her address, and photographs of Kruska that she says are copyrighted. In addition, Barbara Ochoa, aka Petra Luna, allegedly organized a protest targeting publishers of Kruska's writing, which Kruska said resulted in her articles being taken down. Further, Ochoa allegedly emailed Kruska, demanding Kruska remove her "entire web presence" or else face a "full scale activist attack" against her.

Kruska filed her complaint in January 2008. It sought damages and a preliminary injunction, barring thedefendants from "disseminating claims that [Kruska] is a 'Predator', 'Child Molester', 'Child Abuser', 'Pedophile', and 'Pro-Pedophile' bypostings on the internet, mass mailings, e-mails to friends, relatives,employers, business associates, among others; or otherwise by any othermeans making such suggestions."

In response, GoDaddy.com, Ochoa, and PJFI all moved to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds. In April 2008, Kruska voluntarily dropped her claims against MySpace.com. In June 2008, the court granted Ochoa's motion to dismiss, but gave leave to Kruska to amend her complaint against Ochoa, which she did. In July 2008, the court granted GoDaddy.com's motion to dismiss on the ground that CDA 230 precluded liability. The court also seems to have dismissed trademark claims against GoDaddy on CDA 230 grounds, which Eric Goldman notes is unusual.

Update

6/12/2009 - The court denied  Butler's new motion for summary judgment pending discovery.

8/7/2009 - Kruska moved for summary judgment on her copyright infringement claims against Von Erck and PJF.  She claimed any arguments for fair use failed as a matter of law.

8/28/2009 - Von Erck and PJF answered Kruska's complaint with affirmative defenses including a First Amendment defense, fair use, lack of damages, and a lack of personal jurisdiction.

9/22/2009 - The court denied Brocious' motion to dismiss Kruska's amended complaint.  

10/13/2009 - The court denied Kruska's motion for summary judgment on her copyright claims pending discovery.

11/18/2010 - Court issued order granting in part and denying in part Christopher Brocious' Motion to Dismiss and denying Brocious' Motion for Summary Judgment. 

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

Updated 2/12/09 - VAF

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Ramsey v. Harman

Date: 

08/27/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Cindie Harman

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Madison County (N.C.) District Court; North Carolina Court of Appeals

Case Number: 

07 CVD 333 (trial); COA07-1536 (appeal)

Legal Counsel: 

C. Frank Goldsmith, Jr. (Goldsmith Goldsmith & Dews PA)

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Injunction Denied
Injunction Issued

Description: 

Linda Ramsey and Erin Knox, Ramsey's daughter, sued Cindie Harman for stalking in North Carolina state court after Harman wrote on her blog, Bonifide, that Knox was a "bully" and "the reason kids hate to go to school," according to Ramsey's complaint filed August 27, 2007. 

In the complaint, Ramsey sought a temporary civil no-contact order to protect Knox from Harman, which the trial court granted. The court also ordered Harman to refrain from posting any comments about Knox and her family during the trial.  In her defense, Harman argued that her comments were free speech protected under the First Amendment and section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ("CDA 230").  The trial court ultimately ruled that Harman had harassed Knox and Ramsey as defined under North Carolina's General Statutes, section 50C-1(6) and (7), and made the no-contact order permanent. 

Harman appealed, and the North Carolina Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's decision on June 17, 2008.  The appeals court ruled that Ramsey failed to show evidence that the posts were intended to cause or actually did cause Knox substantial emotional distress. Without that proof, the court said, a civil no-contact order should not be granted.  The court did not address Harman's First Amendment and CDA 230 arguments.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Haberman v. Rhoad

Date: 

08/23/2006

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Phil Haberman

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Kristen Rhoad

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Florida Circuit Court, Sarasota County

Case Number: 

2006 DR 007754 SC

Legal Counsel: 

Pro se (at time of injunction); Stanley Marabel

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Injunction Issued

Description: 

Kristen Rhoad posted statements on her blog accusing her ex-husband Phil Haberman of abuse and of falsifying his military experience. Sometime in 2006, Haberman sued Rhoad to have the blog removed after the postings were noted in other blogs and newspapers. The complaint alleged that Rhoad's comments constituted cyberstalking under Florida law (Fla. Stat. § 784.048(d)).

In September 2006, the court issued an injunction, barring Rhoad from contacting Haberman, and additionally ordering her to remove all blogs relating to, and to cease posting about, him. Florida officials apparently threatend to extradite her and charge her with contempt of court if she did not take down the blog. The blog is no longer active.

Update:

9/7/07 - Defendant filed a motion for relief from the injunction. Rhoad has stated that the judge thus far has refused to hear the motion as of 01/15/08.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

to do: see if still pending

Status checked on 6/4/2008, no new information (AAB)

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC
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