The Halifax Daily News
Wednesday, June 3, 1998

Bedford man caught in Net

32-year-old charged after woman's number posted on phone-sex newsgroup

by Brendan Elliot

A 32-year-old Bedford man stands accused of committing the cyberspace equivalent of scratching a woman's name and phone number on a public washroom wall.

"The only difference is that in this case, we're talking about the biggest washroom stall in the world - the Internet", said Halifax regional police computer specialist Sgt. Bill Cowper.

The man, whom police refuse to identify until he's formally arraigned in Bedford provincial court July 8, faces charges of stalking, public mischief, and spreading a false message.

Cowper said a man was arrested May 26, after a woman reported to police a false posting had been placed on an Internet news group that provided her phone number along with a solicitation for phone sex.

"She became aware of it when she was awoken in the wee hours of the morning by a man who had called on the pretense that she would provide a phone-sex service for him", Cowper said.

Not meant as joke

An investigation ensued, and the man was arrested May 26. Cowper said the posting to the newsgroup - essentially an electronic bulletin board - wasn't a locally based service. There are more than 25,000 newsgroups on the Internet and this one was posted to a group catering to phone sex, the officer said.

Cowper said the man was not a jilted lover or ex-boyfriend, nor was it meant as a practical joke. "If it were intended to be a joke, we would have treated it that way, and criminal charges wouldn't have been forthcoming", the officer said, adding the woman had to relocate and get a new number after the incident.

There is a "high probability" the man will plead guilty to the offences at his first court appearance, Cowper said. "The evidence we have gathered on this case is insurmountable. Anytime you're dealing with the computer, there is no such thing as anonymity.

"You are leaving electronic footprints everywhere you go, and it's basically the same as having an eyewitness to the events", Cowper explained.

The stalking charge is "part and parcel to, but not isolated to" the Internet charges, Cowper said, hinting there could be more to the story. "I wish I could tell you more, but I have to let the courts do their thing."

Copyright © 1998 by The Halifax Daily News. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.