Cyberstalking bill introduced in Md. House
(WJLA) - There is a growing national trend of people stealing women's identifies and then posing as them online. It’s been used as a way to stalk and even terrorize. In a local case, an ex-husband went even further, posing as his former wife to solicit sex, sending strangers to her door. Prosecutors say they lack a law to address what some are calling rape by proxy.
The local woman who fell victim to cyberstalking eventually had to leave the region to escape and start her life over again. For prosecutors, it was frustrating, a growing problem that certainly seems like it should be illegal, but the law hasn’t kept pace with new technology like social media.
Michael Johnson was sentenced in July to 115 years in prison after prosecutors say he posed as his ex-wife on the Internet to solicit sex.
For 45 days in 2012, Angell Williams and her young children lived in fear as hundreds of men showed up at their home.
“I didn’t sleep,” Williams told ABC7 News in July. “I had to stay awake at night so my children could sleep.”
The men were sent to her home by fake online profiles created by Johnson, claiming to be his ex-wife, even posting pictures of Williams and the children with their address, one titled “rape me and my children.”
Assistant State's Attorney Christina Ropella prosecuted the case for Prince George’s County.
“They can hide behind a keyboard, they feel more anonymous, they feel braver than someone would have to work up the courage to go commit the offense, but it’s absolutely just as devastating and dangerous to the victims of these crimes. It can destroy their lives.”
“We’re finding this type of crime, as brain boggling as it is, is growing because of the Internet,” Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks says.
Which is why Prince George’s County prosecutors and sexual assault advocates were at the Maryland State House Thursday, urging delegates to follow the Senate’s lead and pass a law making what they call rape by proxy a felony, punishable by up to 20 years behind bars.
“If you steal someone’s identify and say 'hey come sexually assault me,' that should be a felony and we should punish that for a long time,” says Lisae Jordan, the executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Thursday was the House of Delegates’ first time hearing the bill so it’s got a few hurdles before the rape by proxy measure can become law. Supporters hope to see it passed by the end of the season.