Landlords can be difficult to deal with at times, but this case highlights a scenario on an extreme end of the spectrum. When a 24-year-old woman began seeing strange men show up at her home and work, she had no idea why they were there. They were there because they believed that she had posted kinky ads on Craigslist and was looking for sex. But it wasn’t she who had posted the ads. As it turns out, it was her landlord who had initiated a campaign of terror against his former tenant.
The men would show up at her home at all hours of the night believing that she had digitally cruised them for a discreet sexual encounter. She found her email flooded with pornographic images. At some point, the stalker began contacting her. The defendant forwarded her the ads he had put up in her name and told her that he was going to make her pay.
The young woman at one point had politely rejected a sexual advance from the landlord.
Last month, the landlord was sentenced to 3 to 5 years in federal prison. The jury convicted him of cyberstalking.
As a result, the 24-year-old woman lost her job and was forced to move out of state and in with her mother. But the harassment did not end there. The landlord began the same campaign targeting Alabama’s Craigslist.
Eventually, police were able to trace the Craigslist ads to the landlord who claimed that his ex-wife was responsible for the stalking. He was married and had a 14-month-old son at the time of his conviction.
Cyberstalking Laws in Florida
Cyberstalking is a crime that is a subsection of stalking under Florida statutes. According to Florida law, stalking constitutes repeated malicious harassment of a victim. In this instance, harassment is any wilful act that causes intentional emotional distress to a victim. It also implies that the perpetrator issued a credible threat of violence, which this landlord did.
The landlord initiated his campaign of terror after the complainant moved out of his apartment and rebuffed his sexual advances. He attempted to hide his identity using software on his Ipad and a fake email address.
According to Florida statute 784.048, cyberstalking occurs when an individual uses electronic means to harass, intimidate, and intentionally cause emotional distress to a victim.
In the case of the young woman who was forced to endure her ex-landlord’s campaign of terror against her, the emotional toll that it took on her was catastrophic. She no longer feels safe living alone and as is medicated for severe anxiety. The impact of the landlord’s actions will likely leave a scar on her for the rest of her life. More infuriating still is that appears to have been the point.
In this case, the defense attempted a “plan b defense”; this means, essentially, to accuse someone else of the crime. The landlord accused his ex-wife. Typically, an attorney might try to argue that the defendant’s actions did not rise to the level of a “credible threat”, but in this case, the defendant literally threatened the complainant.
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