Family Hopes $1.4M Verdict Sends Cyberbullying Message

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William Moreno of suburban Virginia said the campaign of Internet trolling he and his family endured was as vicious as it was unrelenting. A SWAT team was sent to their Virginia home, false charges were filed against him, and he was accused online of molesting a girl, reports the Washington Post. The “reign of terror,” as he described it, was so bad that that Moreno tried to take his own life. Now, he and his family have turned the tables on one of the men they accused of tormenting them, winning a $1.4 million civil judgment. The ruling by a Loudoun County jury is one of the largest in an Internet trolling case in the nation’s history. The family doubts it will collect the full sum but hopes the verdict is a warning to cyberbullies everywhere.

“It’s important to realize that cyberbullying can lead to this horrible stuff that spills into the real world,” said Sharon Moreno, William’s mother. “It’s especially difficult for vulnerable people.” In a six-day trial, the jury found Michael Josef Basl, of Henrico County, Va., liable for stalking, defamation, and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on the family in 2013-14. Basl denied the allegations and will ask a judge to set aside the verdict. “I’m very disappointed,” Basl said. “The case wasn’t decided on the merits. They inflamed the jury.” William Moreno, 33, met Basl in the local Web forum Fairfax Underground about six years ago. Moreno, who has a mild form of autism and suffers from major depression, said the forum provided a social outlet for him. As “Mr. Misery,” Moreno posted controversial remarks about 9/11 and child molestation. His comments drew the ire of other users, including Basl, known on the forum as “eesh.” Moreno said the posts were jokes.

 

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