Guilty Plea In Pioneering Cyberstalking Case

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A stalker tormented Joelle Ligon with cruel, anonymous e-mails for six years. He posed as her in chat rooms, solicited sex, and gave out her phone numbers. He e-mailed her co-workers, using her name, with links to porn sites. He spread vicious lies about her. Yesterday, reports, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ligon had the satisfaction of watching her stalker — her ex-boyfriend — plead guilty in federal court to two counts of online harassment. Her case led to a new state law banning cyberstalking, and became the first in the country to be prosecuted under an amendment to federal telecommunications law. James Murphy, a 38-year-old South Carolina resident, originally faced 26 felony counts of Internet harassment. He said in court that he is taking medication for depression.

Ligon first dated Murphy in Utah in 1984, when she was 15. She broke off the relationship six years later, moved to Virginia, went to college and got married. In 1998, the creepy e-mails began. Among Murphy’s offenses was messaging Ligon and a group of her co-workers with lies, under the guise of a fake group that supposedly enforced an “honor code” for colleges including Ligon’s alma mater in Virginia. He wrote that Ligon may have got her job “under false pretenses related to her college degree” and “had a long record of moral terpitude (sic), sexual deviance, drug use and psychological infirmity.”


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