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Florida man charged with cyberstalking, pleads guilty

On Dec. 9, a 32-year-old Oldsmar man pleaded guilty to charges of cyberstalking and harassment that involved using his former girlfriend's social media accounts to make inappropriate posts. Though the man lives in Florida and the two dated in that state, the criminal charges were filed in a Delaware court.

Following a breakup, the ex-girlfriend relocated to Delaware and attempted to end contact. Despite having his phone calls blocked, the man reportedly tried to communicate through text messages, social networking sites and even an employer-sponsored email address. After gaining access to several of his ex-girlfriend's accounts, the man allegedly found nude photos and sent them to the woman's friends, relatives and professional contacts, including her grandmother and her former students' parents.

Sources say that the Oldsmar man also changed the login details, blocked his ex-girlfriend from her own accounts and made online posts while pretending to be her. In June, authorities seized his smartphone, tablet and a CPU from his home. A Delaware grand jury charged the man with five counts of misdemeanor harassment and seven felony charges for identity theft, stalking, unauthorized computer access and misuse of computer information.

The man entered a guilty plea prior to the trial, which was scheduled for Dec. 17. According to the Delaware attorney general's office, the court sentenced the man to 11 years in prison but granted him a suspension with an unspecified probationary period. As part of his agreement, the court ordered the man to complete mandatory evaluations for mental health and domestic violence.

Virtual crimes pose challenges for judicial officials who are often unfamiliar with the technology involved. As cyberstalking is relatively new, standards for such crimes are still developing. Criminal defense lawyers who stay up to date on Internet-based cases may be helpful in reviewing cyberstalking allegations.

Source: The Tampa Tribune, "Oldsmar man pleads guilty to cyberstalking", Stephen Thompson, December 18, 2013

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