After a break-up, defendant Sayer “persistently stalked and harassed Jane Doe for over four years.” Initially he’d show up at places where he knew Jane Doe would be, forcing her to change her routine and give up various activities. Then he took things online:
Sayer started to use the internet to induce anonymous third parties to harass Jane Doe. Specifically, several unknown men came to Jane Doe’s house in Maine one day in October 2008 claiming that they had met her online and were seeking “sexual entertainment.” Jane Doe was “shock[ed]” and “terrified” by these “dangerous”-looking men and decided to stay with a friend because she no longer felt safe in her home. She later discovered an online ad in the “casual encounters” section of Craigslist, a classified advertisements website, that had pictures of her in lingerie that Sayer had taken while they were dating. The ad gave detailed directions to her home and described a list of sexual acts she was supposedly willing to perform.
The unwanted visits from men seeking sex persisted for eight months until June 2009, when Jane Doe changed her name and moved to her aunt’s house in Louisiana to escape from Sayer and this harassment. Jane Doe began a new career and felt safe for a couple of months until August 25, 2009, when an unknown man showed up at her home in Louisiana and addressed her by her new name.
Later, fake Facebook and Myspace profiles were also set up in Jane Doe’s name, which also contained explicit photographs:
The false Facebook account was created on August 21, 2009 from 24 Marion Avenue in Biddeford, Maine, which had an unsecured wireless network; Sayer lived at 23 Marion Avenue. The police found videos of Jane Doe “engaged in sexually explicit activity” that had been posted to adult pornography sites[.]
The [Myspace] profile had both her old and new names, her Louisiana address, and links to adult pornography sites hosting sex videos of Jane Doe.
Sayer’s behavior continued into the summer of 2010, when he was arrested for finally violating a protection order that Jane Doe had against him. He was later indicted with one count of cyberstalking and one count of identity theft. Here’s the charge on the cyberstalking front:
From about July 2009, the exact date being unknown, until about November 2009, in the District of Maine, and elsewhere, Defendant, Shawn Sayer with the intent to injure, harass, and cause substantial emotional distress to a person in another state, namely, Louisiana, used facilities of interstate or foreign commerce, including electronic mail and internet websites, to engage in a course of conduct that caused substantial emotional distress to the victim and placed her in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.
Sayer argued that the Cyberstalking Statute - § 2261A(2)(A) – was overbroad on its face, and violated the First Amendment. When the district court didn’t buy that argument, Sayer entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal. The identity theft charge was dismissed. And so earlier this month, the First Circuit weighed the constitutionality of the Statute. Here’s the most relevant paragraph from the recent opinion:
Under § 2261A(2)(A), a defendant must first have the intent “to kill, injure, harass, or place [a victim] under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate, or cause substantial emotional distress.” Second, thef defendant must engage in a “course of conduct” that actually “causes substantial emotional distress . . . or places [the victim] in reasonable fear of . . . death . . . or serious bodily injury . . . .” 18 U.S.C. § 2261A(2)(A). Sayer argues that because his course of conduct involved speech, or online communications, it cannot be proscribed in accord with the First Amendment. This argument is meritless.
Sayer had even conceded that “his conduct, which deceptively enticed men to Jane Doe’s home, put Jane Doe in danger and at risk of physical harm” and so his argument that the First Amendment trumps everything looks pretty weak. The court did not agree with Sayer that the statute is overbroad or void for vagueness, and so his conviction was upheld.