Online Stalker From Seattle Pleads Guilty
Hiding behind keyboards
doesn’t work anymore
September 12, 2018
Chronicle news, opinion, expert crime analysis
Photo & graphic: Sky Valley Chronicle
By Rex D. Cain
(SEATTLE, WA.) – During the early days of the Internet when cops and prosecutors were a lot less savvy about the online world, it wasn’t all that hard to get away with all sorts of nefarious activities.
Then they went and got a lot smarter. And damned if that just didn’t spoil the fun for all kinds of folks.
“This defendant thought he could use a computer keyboard to stalk and harass others with remarkable cruelty -- all while hiding in the shadows. He could not have been more wrong,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes of the Western District of Washington in a statement this week. “Conduct that we all know is wrong in the real world, is just as wrong in cyberspace and will be punished accordingly.”
That’s the truth and she appears to be sticking to it.
A Seattle man, 38-year old Joel Kurzynski has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle for “conducting cyberstalking and threat campaigns against multiple Washington residents,” said the statement from Hayes’ office.
“Joel Kurzynski’s guilty plea demonstrates that conduct occurring online can cause victims serious harm and anguish offline,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. (Yeah, He’s a Fed too. That’s how serious they take online stalking these days. You go that route, you gotta deal with the feds. You’d have better odds getting away with a quick smash & grab at the local jewelry store.)
“While this prosecution cannot undo the damage this defendant inflicted, it sends a clear message that the Criminal Division and our law enforcement partners are firmly committed to protecting the public and aggressively pursuing malicious actors who hide behind the anonymity of the Internet,” said Benczkowski.
That’s a nice turn of words, malicious actors. Wish we’d have thought of it. At any rate, Mr. Kurzynski, a former Information Technology (IT) professional was charged with two counts of cyberstalking – felonies according to Benczkowski.
Kurzynski had his initial appearance and pleaded guilty on Monday of this week before Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian A. Tsuchida. The Court scheduled his sentencing hearing for Dec. 7.
The admissions: death threats, hate speech and more
Now, according to admissions made in connection with his plea, Kurzynski engaged in an "extensive and rapidly escalating cyberstalking campaign" that targeted two individuals known to him. (The victims’ names are being withheld to protect their privacy.)
The online campaign involved -- among other things -- death threats, body shaming, and hate speech. Starting in March of last year Kurzynski, according to the statement from Hayes’ office:
~ Orchestrated numerous spam phone calls to Victim 1. The conduct soon escalated to fake dating profiles wherein Kurzynski portrayed Victim 1 as seeking sadomasochistic or underage relationships. These profiles contained photographs of Victim 1 and his contact information, resulting in solicitations and harassing messages directed toward Victim 1 from multiple strangers.
~ Kurzynski then sent several anonymous death threats to Victim 1, including the threat, “faggot. Time to die.” At one point, Kurzynski impersonated a journalist and contacted Victim 1, claiming that an upcoming article would levy sexual misconduct allegations against Victim 1 related to Victim 1’s work with a non-profit youth organization.
~ Kurzysnki also admitted that in November 2017, he began registering Victim 2 for numerous weight loss and suicide prevention programs, resulting in a wave of calls and emails from entities such as Overeaters Anonymous, Weight Watchers, Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention, and others. Within weeks, Kurzynski started sending anonymous death threats to Victim 2, many of which referenced Victim 2’s work address.
~ One threat claimed that he was waiting for her in the lobby, and another that said, “Looking forward to seeing you today and how much you bleed. Don’t go to the bathroom alone.”
The U.S. Secret Service’s Seattle Field Office investigated the case “with substantial assistance from the Seattle Police Department and King County Prosecutor’s Office.”
Let this be a lesson kids. Crime does not pay. You heard it here first.