Many people might think online harassment is harmless because it happens over a computer, not in the physical world. However, the first case of cyber harassment that was ever brought to court shows what can happen when police and federal agencies team up to uncover this kind of activity.

The background

A man who resided in Columbia, South Carolina, was sending obscene emails to a former girlfriend who lived in Seattle, Washington. Using a fake name, he harassed her daily for more than four years and even began sending uninvited emails to her coworkers. The cyber stalker tracked her through malware he had placed on her computer before she moved away from South Carolina. After the girlfriend collected email evidence that she turned into the police. They engaged the help of the FBI and other federal agencies and the cyber stalker was eventually caught. In April 2004, some six years after the barrage of electronic messages began, the South Carolina resident was indicted on 26 counts of sending harassing emails. He entered a guilty plea on two counts of “Use of a Telecommunications Device with Intent to Annoy, Abuse, Threaten or Harass.” The device mentioned in this case was the internet, and the court case was the first of its kind in the United States.

Cyber harassment in Minnesota

In the state of Minnesota, anyone who harasses another person can face a gross misdemeanor charge if the harasser “repeatedly mails or delivers or causes the delivery by any means, including electronically, of letters, telegrams, messages, packages, or other objects.”

Lengthy investigations

Cyber harassment is among many kinds of white-collar crime, the investigation of which can be lengthy and complex. Depending on the circumstances and the results of the stalking or harassment activity, penalties could include fines and even extend to imprisonment. As the original indictment from 2004 shows, even harassers who believe their use of cyberspace makes them practically invisible can end up in court. If you find yourself accused of this kind of activity, explore your legal options to ensure the best outcome possible for your case.