Transcription performed by LeahTranscribes
[START OF RECORDING]
JACK: Okay, right off the bat, I want to give a content warning. We’re gonna get into some sexually explicit stuff in this episode. We’re gonna talk about nudity and there’s gonna be some swearing, so this episode is for mature listeners. You’ve been warned. Oh, and by the way, I give these warnings because a lot of you tell me you listen with your little kids, which I think is amazing. Hi, kids. But, sorry, kids. Okay, so, have you ever had your nude photos leaked online? You probably have. [MUSIC] You just might not know it, because some insane stuff is going on out there. Let me explain. First, law enforcement has access to some pretty crazy tools; databases that scrape the internet and then store a whole bunch of information on a person. I guess it’s used to help conduct investigations so they can quickly and easily get a whole bunch of information on a person. They can get your marital status or your address, your job, salary, kind of car, flight records, social media accounts, and of course, photos of you. Well, some cops have been caught abusing this tool. One cop was caught looking for dates on Tinder, which is fine. Cops can look for dates on Tinder. But the thing that he was doing was he was looking up his matches in this police database. Another cop was using the database to stalk some woman he was into, and another cop, Bryan, oof; he tried to see if he could use the tool to find nude photos of women on it.
He used his access to gain a bunch of information on women, and then he worked with a hacker to break into the women’s accounts and find nude photos of them. Yeah, a cop was abusing his power to steal nude photos of women and then was trying to extort them with the images he found. He went to prison for that, but that story doesn’t even matter if a cop did it. The idea that a hacker can break into your account and steal private photos off your phone is a big problem. I’ve read countless stories of guys planting cameras in places they shouldn’t be, like women’s bathrooms or changing rooms, and with cameras getting smaller and harder to notice, this problem persists. But actually, a lot of you just put surveillance cameras right up in your homes yourself. ADT, for example, is a security company that allows you to put cameras inside your home to keep watch over your safety. But guess what? There was an ADT employee who was caught abusing his access and was spying on women and people having sex in their homes, taking screenshots of them and stuff. Oh, and let’s not forget about LOVEINT.
This is a term used for when intelligence officials use their spying power to spy on love interests. There has been some reported cases that people in the NSA have used their access to the national surveillance infrastructure to check if a spouse is cheating or to keep a closer eye on someone they’re interested in. So, this is case after case of how your nude photos could be leaked without you doing anything wrong. Just think about all this next time you see a camera, which you probably see a camera a million times a day. With all our connected and smart devices, we are not the only ones who can control them, and the people who do have access to your camera can and will abuse that access. Or maybe the camera is just insecure and someone else who shouldn’t have access to it will get in. [MUSIC] Cameras are now ubiquitous in our lives, and I just want you to be aware that you shouldn’t trust it to keep your private life private. I mean, just think about all the places you’re naked in front of a camera. Everyone takes their phone to the bathroom now, don’t they?
(INTRO): [INTRO MUSIC] These are true stories from the dark side of the internet. I’m Jack Rhysider. This is Darknet Diaries. [INTRO MUSIC ENDS]
JACK: Okay, so, let’s just get to know you to get started with. What’s your name and what was your life like before all this started?
MADISON: My name is Madison and gosh, that’s — the first question you ask me is already very hard ‘cause I kind of don’t remember what my life was before this.
JACK: No problem, Madison. I’m here to help. [MUSIC] So, Madison grew up in Florida, and after high school went to attend a college in Florida.
MADISON: I was studying marketing and communications.
JACK: Madison has a twin sister named Christine.
MADISON: Yeah, so, my twin sister and I actually went to school at the same college.
JACK: Christine was working on becoming a lawyer, and while there at school, Christine met a guy.
CHRISTINE: Dana was in a fraternity and I was in a sorority, and we were paired up to do homecoming together. He was the president of his fraternity at the time, and I was nominated for the homecoming queen for my sorority.
JACK: Dana, what were you working on in school?
DANA: I’m an airline pilot, so that’s what I was working on. I learned to fly in college. I’m an aviation major.
JACK: Dana was pretty active in his fraternity at the time; hanging out with the boys, bonding with them, developing lifelong relationships with some of them. But he fancied Christine the most. [MUSIC] So, Dana and Christine started dating in college. She’d even come by and hang out with the fraternity boys sometimes, too. She got to know some of them fairly well, and of course, Dana would get to know Christine’s twin sister Madison over time, too.
DANA: I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Mary Kate and Ashley, you know, but that was their idols when they were growing up, and they have — we can solve any crime by dinnertime; that’s the way these two have been since they were five years old.
MADISON: I was about nineteen or twenty, and I had woken up and I remember having — an acquaintance from high school [MUSIC] had DMed me and was like, hey, someone’s harassing you on the internet and they’re posting photos of you and stuff, right? I was just like, what? No. Send me links. What’s going on?
JACK: Sexually explicit pictures of Madison were posted on the internet publicly for anyone to see.
MADISON: In the photographs I was covered, but — I call them nip slips.
JACK: So, these photos were part of a photoshoot she did with a photographer in Florida. They weren’t supposed to show any nudity. But as she was moving around the photoshoot, yeah, her nipple became partially visible for a few photos, but these photos should have only been seen between her and her photographer. Nobody should have seen this nip slip. How did this happen?
MADISON: I still to this day don’t know exactly where people got those from.
JACK: Where was it posted?
MADISON: So, there was 4chan, which is the big one that I’m sure you’re aware of.
MADISON: There was — at one point I think it was moe.com and 4archive, which is a 4chan archive site. There’s motherless.com. There’s a few more, but 4chan and the 4chan archive are the top big ones that are the bad news bears kinda websites that people go on.
JACK: Okay, not only were her photos put up there, but the person who posted it was saying things like, help me find more nude photos of her, and posted her name and information along with the photos.
MADISON: [MUSIC] Yeah, I think it was my full name, my Snapchat, my Facebook, and my phone number.
JACK: Can you imagine waking up to a whole bunch of posts on different websites with your partially-nude photos up there with someone calling for people to target you and hurt you and get more nude photos of you? Ugh. Sounds awful.
MADISON: I think my immediate reaction was — just kind of in shock and not knowing who was trying to hurt me. I think that was the scariest part, is that this was someone that may or may not have known me but they’re trying to hurt me, and not knowing who it was. So, it’s very scary.
JACK: The way 4chan works is everyone on there is anonymous. So, there’s not many notes that you can take to try to figure out who this might be. It’s an anonymous user, and now, since the post had her social media profile listed, she was getting some weird messages and texts.
MADISON: [MUSIC] That was horrible because literally my phone was blowing up nonstop at certain times. Of course, it’s never noon on a Tuesday. It’s like, 3:00, 4:00 AM on a Monday when you have to work the next day, you know? So, it was pretty bad. Even little things, like — it sounds so stupid, but in order to turn my phone off, I had to get an alarm clock. Our phones are our alarm clocks, you know? So, I would, in the middle of the night, have to turn my phone off and then I would sleep in and be late to work or something because I just wanted some sort of sleep to be able to have a normal day the next day. So, I think the phone was the worst part at that point. People would reach out to me, so in the beginning I would be like, oh, who is this? Kind of try to get it out of them who it was, and at that point I don’t think I knew that it was multiple people, you know? So, it just took a really long time to even just grasp the whole end game of what people are trying to do and how they’re doing it. It obviously didn’t get me very far.
JACK: She was saving all the messages though, and phone numbers and usernames that were messaging her in case any of this made sense later. It wasn’t just one time; whoever had posted this was posting it relentlessly over and over and over again, week after week, continuing this campaign against her. She didn’t like this. She didn’t like having her nudes posted. She didn’t like the harassment. She wanted these messages to stop. But how do you get it to stop? I think because it’s such an embarrassing situation, it’s hard to ask for help from anyone. What are you gonna do, ask your dad to help you track down who stole photos of your partially-exposed nipples? No, god. She had a boyfriend, though, and asked him for help. So, he started looking into it. Because she was so close to her twin sister Christine, she eventually went to Christine in a panic.
CHRISTINE: Okay, let’s just take a beat. This’ll fizzle out. You’re young. It’s not a big deal. So, then it kept getting worse and worse and worse. So, we ended up trying to report it to the police. So, I was kind of involved just helping my twin sister interact with the police station, researching. At this point I’m in law school or about to go to law school, so — not that I was a professional at this point, but I was equipped a little bit better to do some research, to contact some people. So, that’s initially how I first got involved, is truly just trying to help her deal with this terrible thing that was happening.
JACK: They had to sit down and learn how these websites operate, and it’s such a mess for these sisters to even be on 4chan studying this, because that place is absolutely awful. [MUSIC] The amount of gore and pornography that they must have seen probably scarred their eyes for life. It’s an ugly place. It’s the underbelly of the internet, and they were there trying to find the moderators, wondering why posts disappear after a while. Like, where do they go? Can you message other users here? Can you ask the site to take down posts? What is this weird language people are using? Sauce, winds, sage? What other sites are scraping this site, listening, watching, archiving? And how do you get those sites to take down photos, and are there any legal implications to any of this? So, while Christine was studying that, Madison and her boyfriend took a trip down south to the Florida Keys. Now, one thing the Florida Keys are known for are beautiful sunsets, and Madison was on the beach there watching a beautiful sunset. She took her phone out and snapped a photo of it. She posted it on Snapchat and almost immediately got a text message to her phone from a stranger.
MADISON: I got a message saying, oh, that’s a beautiful sunset that you just saw. I hope you’re having fun in the Keys with Jeff, my boyfriend at the time.
JACK: Leave her alone! Don’t bother people like this. Let people just enjoy their vacation without creeping all over them. This freaked out Madison. She was rattled by this. Who’s watching her Snapchat that carefully? Wait a second; that’s a great question. Who’s watching her Snapchat?
MADISON: [MUSIC] Snapchat has — you can see who viewed the images, you know? So, I immediately went to my Snapchat and screenshot the people that had seen the photograph. So, I was like, it has to be one of those — at that point, I think thirty-five people had seen it. It wasn’t a lot of people but it wasn’t like one person, you know? So, I immediately went and screenshot it really quick and just kind of kept it in my back pocket.
JACK: Okay, good clue to grab, because this really narrows it down. This harassment was going on so long that she had locked down her socials to be private. Only the people she knew were allowed to see the photos that she was posting. So, her harasser might be someone she knew?
MADISON: Those thirty-five people were my suspects at that point, and this was probably two years into the harassment. It was a while with the harassment.
JACK: Two years.
JACK: Two years. Oh my gosh. We haven’t even got started yet and already two years. This is so awful.
JACK: Two years of harassment. I thought this was like, months into it.
JACK: Now, being harassed so bad for so long wears a person out. It’s heavy work to sort through 4chan or try to connect these dots, not something you want to be doing while on vacation. You want to get away from that shit, not scoop it up and sniff it. So, she sent this information to her sister and really tried not to let it bother her, but the harassing posts and text messages just kept coming in, more and more. Whoever this was continued posting to all these websites the same nip-slip photos and her contact details, and people were calling her and messaging her and stuff.
MADISON: Yes, and then at some point he kind of upped the ante and was giving out my address to my home, [MUSIC] my parents’ social media handles, my sister’s social media handles, and extra information. That was probably actually around the same time that the Keys situation happened, probably that same week or two. He had put together a collage of photos and information that was some nude photos of me, some Facebook, LinkedIn profile pictures of me, my family, all their information below my — a picture of me and my family, my home address, and different information. So, around that time, I think he was definitely kind of upping his ante and was probably getting bored with what he had been doing prior to that. So, having my personal address out there was definitely very scary knowing how many people go on those websites to try to harass and hurt innocent women and children. That kind of was an added scare factor, you know?
JACK: This upset her, obviously, deeply. It’s debilitating. How can you focus on work when texts are coming in all the time? How can you relax at home when your phone’s ringing all the time? She was asking her boyfriend for help, and he was looking into it, and he was actually getting pretty deep into the investigation himself.
MADISON: [MUSIC] So, I think at some point — and we really don’t know — like, I never got the full grasp of what he was doing, but at some point, him going — allegedly going and trying to help on the IT aspect of it, to hunt down IP addresses or whatnot, I think he somehow got caught up in the middle of communicating with the perpetrator and back, and then was going back and forth with him through e-mails, which I do know for a fact they were e-mailing back and forth. I think that at some point he — when him and I were breaking up for multiple reasons, not just this situation, I think that he might have just been like, screw it, I’m just gonna send him some additional photos of Madison. He also sent a couple photos of my sister from a photoshoot as well. So, during that time, he had made the situation — like, added fuel to the fire, essentially, and made the situation a thousand times worse.
JACK: What the hell? So, her boyfriend found the guy doing this and gave him more photos? What? Okay, yeah, so how — I mean, we were talking about nip slips before. What are we talking about now?
MADISON: It was very graphic stuff. There were — him and I were in a long-distance relationship, so he had an arsenal of stuff from video chats with him and I. Just very explicit; full vagina, full body, everything, videos and photographs. So, it wasn’t even just photographs.
JACK: Not good. This was the stuff that was now getting posted over and over again, nonstop. She knew her boyfriend — well, now ex-boyfriend — must have been the one that was leaking this since he was the only one with these images and videos. Things were rocky between them. They were actually bad, so it’s a possibility that he did this maybe to hurt her or something. But wait; her sister’s nude photos were in there, too. What is going on there? How did he get that? Christine, what photo did you — did he post of you?
CHRISTINE: There was one photo that was — I didn’t even know existed. It was an implied boudoir photoshoot.
JACK: Okay, so, there was a couple of nude photos of Christine in this, and these photos are gonna take a moment to explain, but I think it’s worth it, so stay with me. [MUSIC] So, implied boudoir photos have no nudity. Everything is covered up. That’s the implied part. It’s teasing, it’s evocative, but there are no private parts exposed. Christine has the photos from that shoot, and there simply weren’t any nude photos in there. On top of that, she never shared any of the photos from this boudoir photoshoot publicly, never posted any of it to social media, but there were nude photos of her from that exact photoshoot up on the internet. How did that happen? By this time, Christine had married Dana.
DANA: I was loosely aware of what was going on when Madison just — they kinda were handling it amongst themselves for the most part. This kind of situation is like, the less people that know about it the better because you can’t trust anybody when it comes to this type of thing. So, I sort of let them do their thing, and then obviously when you get wind that your wife’s nude photos are online, I kinda — that’s when it really grabbed my attention and when I really started diving into this. It almost felt wrong for me to dive into it to begin with ‘cause they’re naked photos of my sister-in-law, you know what I mean? I don’t — these websites are horrible, awful places. You feel dirty just looking at it. But once Christine was up on the internet and we knew that was happening, I decided this needed to stop and I was going to put whatever skills I had in this world to try and make that happen.
JACK: Okay, a new ally joins the fight; Dana the pilot. First he’s like, wait a minute, where do these photos come from? How could he have gotten them?
DANA: So, these shoots — the photographer might take 2,000 pictures in the span of an hour, and if you load those all onto an image viewer and just space bar through them, it’s basically like you’re watching a low-frame-rate video because he’s just snapping photos constantly, multiple per second, so it’s almost like a video when you piece them together. So, the girls, when they would change positions — if they’re hiding their breasts with their arms, whatever they’re doing as far as doing these kind of boudoir-implied nude photos, at some point they’re gonna change position or turn to a certain angle or something and there’s gonna be a nipple or something. What the boyfriend did…
CHRISTINE: Yeah, we call those nip-slips. [LAUGHS]
DANA: So, what the boyfriend did was go through 1,200 photos on a CD of my wife and pull out the two frames where there was a nipple in it, found it, saved it, sent it to the guy.
JACK: Man, that’s a lot of work to go through hundreds of photos to find the one or two with a nip slip. But still, these photos, they were on a CD in a box in her parents’ house mixed in with some other photos of Madison. Christine didn’t even know these nip slips were in there. So, how did he get those photos? Well, as you may know, photos on a CD are kind of clunky to deal with. Our laptops and phones don’t have a place to insert the CD. So, a while back, Madison just went through that box and grabbed a bunch of CDs and copied them onto Dropbox to make it easier to access. Well, Madison’s boyfriend somehow gained access to her Dropbox, and he looked through these photos of her sister, Christine, which is where he found these nip slips, and then sent them to this guy, their harasser. What a big problem that they have to deal with now. I want you to understand; Christine’s nude photos being on the internet like this is the least likely thing to ever happen. She doesn’t have nude photos.
The fact that a couple were accidentally taken that she had no idea even existed and were in a box in her parents’ house, offline even, somehow made their way onto a revenge porn site, it’s so unfair. Some people like to victim-shame in this situation; oh, you dirty girl, that’s what you get for taking nude photos. Fuck right off with that attitude. Christine is a good lady, and if this kind of stuff can happen to people who have done everything right, then clearly this is not the victim’s fault. We should be helping her and other people in this situation, not blaming them. [MUSIC] I’ll even take this a step further; at least once a month some dude e-mails me telling me that they’re in a similar situation where they met some lady online, things got hot and heavy, he sent a dick pic, but she turned out to be a guy and just wanted something to use to extort him. Now he’s asking me, what do I do? They want me to pay $500 or they’ll send my nude photo to my boss.
You know what? I sympathize with him, too, because the person holding his dick pic for ransom is breaking the law. They are scamming him, extorting him, harassing him, and I don’t like that. I don’t like harassers getting away with their bullshit no matter who the victim is. The victim is irrelevant. It’s the criminal who should be blamed and punished for this. Sorry; I kinda lost the plot there. This topic of online harassment is a sensitive one for me. I feel like it’s gotten way out of hand. Every day I go online and I just see this kind of stuff, and it’s like a kick to my heart every time. Stop harassing people, okay? We’ve got better things to do with our time. If you’re a harasser, just stop. I don’t care why you think your actions are justified. Just stop. Find a way to make a positive impact on someone’s life, not a negative one. Let it go. Let’s work on making the world a better place, not a worse place.
MADISON: So, we were hiding it from our parents, and not that our parents aren’t — like, they wouldn’t — they’re supportive parents. It’s not like we’re from a strict Catholic family that’s gonna shun us and send us away to boarding school, you know? But it was still just that embarrassment factor of like, we’re — or we’d like to think we’re educated, smart women, and we somehow got ourselves in this situation.
JACK: Yeah, and I can’t imagine wanting to show my dad this is what’s going on out there. It would just be the most awful experience.
MADISON: Exactly. No matter how cool your parents are, it’s just not a conversation you want to have with them.
JACK: So, how did they become aware?
MADISON: I mean, they kind of became aware when they were getting unsolicited images of myself. I don’t think ever my sister, but definitely of me. But they were in the same situation of like, uh, we’ll just delete this, not knowing the seriousness of it because we didn’t tell them the seriousness of it. So, my dad’s like, yeah, I just deleted the couple things they sent me ‘cause it was awkward, you know? So, he kinda didn’t even tell us in the beginning.
JACK: Man, how awful that must have been to be a parent and see someone send you a nude photo of your daughter. But then for Madison to find out later that her parents already saw it but were too embarrassed to say anything about it? It’s such a messy situation to figure out for everyone. Okay, so, Madison and Christine have this steaming pile of bullshit they’re dealing with now.
MADISON: Yeah, it was, and it was just because — I don’t think that — like, am I allowed to say it was fucked up? [LAUGHS]
JACK: Yeah, go for it.
MADISON: Okay. I was like, uh — I’ll be able to talk more smoothly if I can say what’s on my mind.
JACK: Absolutely. I think this one is rated R to begin with from the get-go.
MADISON: Yeah, so, at that point, Christine, Dana, and I were getting very good at creeping the dark web and finding information on ourselves to do takedowns and just kinda clean stuff up. So, we had successfully figured out how to take down images from these websites, so we were doing it pretty quickly.
JACK: What’s the language you use to tell them, hey, I want this removed?
MADISON: DMCAs are the language.
JACK: It’s interesting, right? Most nudes that get leaked like this are selfies, and the thing is is if you took the photo, you automatically have the copyright to that photo. You don’t have to go register it with the Copyright Office or anything. It’s automatically your copyrighted work. So, if someone uses a photo you took without your permission, that’s a copyright violation. So, tap on the sign. Point to the law and say, hey, it’s illegal to post this without my permission. Take it down. A lot of sites do. Of course, it really helped that Christine was studying law and knew this stuff, and she wanted to be extra careful here and make sure both her feet were firmly planted in the law and it was on her side. So, she asked the photographer who took her photos, can we transfer the copyright to me? She did. She went through the US Copyright Office to get the copyright of her nip slips transferred to her so she could have more power at getting this removed.
MADISON: [MUSIC] During this time I had multiple employers because it literally has spanned over a eight or nine-year period at this point. Managers had been called and harassed on my behalf, so they had seen LinkedIn or Facebook where I worked and they would call and harass and ask for my current boss at the time and kind of be like, do you know what’s on the internet of her? Just the typical harassment, but doing it to my bosses at the time.
JACK: I don’t know. It’s just awful in every corner because there’s no escaping it, right? No matter where you end up going. You go on vacation; you’re harassed on vacation. You go to work; you’re harassed at work. At home; you’re harassed at home.
MADISON: Mm-hm. We eventually had gotten — and told my parents because Christine and I had a mental breakdown one day and just started bawling, crying, and talking to our parents about it.
JACK: What triggered the breakdown? Just ‘cause it was nonstop, right?
MADISON: Yeah, I think it was just nonstop and we were trying our hardest and we were — emotions were high. Stress was high.
JACK: When you went to tell your parents, do you — did it feel like you were telling them — like, they didn’t — you didn’t know they knew.
MADISON: No, and they knew to an extent, but they had no idea how bad it had been because they only saw what they had gotten, you know? So, they didn’t know how bad it actually was.
JACK: Yeah, ‘cause I just imagine the — oh my gosh, this is what’s been going on, and they’re like, yeah, we’ve been getting messages. We didn’t feel comfortable enough to talk to you about it.
MADISON: Yeah, exactly.
JACK: That’s how that conversation went. Oh my gosh.
MADISON: Yeah, and then, other than that…
JACK: That just fuels it, right? ‘Cause you’re already at a breakdown and then you’re like, what? You’ve seen it, too? They know you’re — aargh. You’d just — it’s worse. It’s not better.
MADISON: Yeah, no. Not at all.
JACK: [MUSIC] Now, because Christine is a lawyer, of course she wanted to use the legal system to sort this out.
CHRISTINE: I help — well, so, my sister went into the sheriff’s department in Melbourne, Florida, and was turned away. This is also around the same time that the — Florida’s Non-Consensual Pornography Law is enacted. So, it’s not only harassing, stalking, a federal crime, it’s at this point actually illegal in the state of Florida, this exact thing. If you read the statute, it is — in layman’s terms, it is absolutely for this exact situation. So, she gets turned away and I’m like, oh, that’s bullshit. So, I’m gonna compile information for them. I’m gonna print out the statute out for you. I don’t live near her at this point, but I try to go in there with her when I’m in town one day. But I want to say it was a weekend or a holiday, and that division just wasn’t open. So, I was like, I’m gonna leave this binder with you. You’re gonna go in there and get someone to listen to you. Ultimately she went in there and they did not listen to her. I remember sending them an e-mail after the fact and being like, hey, I would be glad to come bring your — bring training to your officers on this, this new law. Clearly they don’t understand the law. Please provide training. I’m a newly sworn-in lawyer that would be happy to help you and train your officers with this new law. They did not like that e-mail and assured me that their officers were trained and doing their job.
JACK: Oh, how frustrating. When she said Madison was turned away, the police didn’t even take her name or any information about the crimes she was reporting. It sounded like they absolutely did not care for her at all. But these sisters were tough and smart and weren’t gonna accept ‘no’ for an answer. We’re gonna take a quick break here, but stay with us because when we come back, they start taking matters into their own hands. The two sisters, Madison and Christine, had been getting harassed by someone or a group of people for years, and it just kept getting worse and escalating to the point that they were experiencing mental breakdowns and were having a really hard time functioning. This harassment was seeping into every aspect of their lives, and it was nonstop. They were capturing everything they could and documenting it all, looking for clues as to who would be doing this, but they weren’t making any progress to solving this. But they were very tuned in to this activity, watching it closely.
MADISON: What he’s posting, ‘cause how you — again, it’s so hard to explain this. We were so involved in the 4chan world for so long, it sounds crazy to normal people who probably — most — I wouldn’t know about this if it weren’t for this. So, on 4chan it’s anonymous, but then a lot of times they would take their conversations offline to Kik. K-I-K is the platform messaging system. Again, an anonymous messaging system, and I’m mansplaining this to someone who does this for a living, so I’ll stop now. [LAUGHS]
JACK: Okay, so, Kik. I do want to add a few things about this. I did a whole episode about Kik; that’s Episode 93, and what I learned from doing that episode is Kik is a magnet for awful behavior. [MUSIC] It’s just a chat app like Discord or Slack, but what I’ve seen is there’s just no content moderation. So, chatrooms can become full of illegal activity, open to the public for anyone to find and join in. Why this app isn’t banned from the Google or Apple Store still is a mystery to me, but it’s very clear that Kik has a lot of problems and is basically a scourge of humanity. So, when this person was posting nude photos of Christine and Madison to 4chan, he was sometimes including his Kik username. You know, in case someone wanted to friend him.
CHRISTINE: So, we were trying to tie those screen names that he’s leaving — so, the screen names that are attached to what he’s posting on 4chan, we’re seeing what those people are posting. We’re seeing, hey, Kik me at ‘insert Kik name here’, finding the ones that are connected to those specific Kik names, ‘cause again, it has to all be the same person. This particular person had a very weird way of typing in which there were three periods and it’s all spaced out. Not like a typical dot, dot, dot; it was like, dot, space, space, dot, space, space, dot. Just very odd. Like, that’s not how people typically talk even on the internet, especially on the internet. So, we’re using all these little clues to kinda figure out, alright, as a whole, let’s zoom out. What is this person interested in? What are they posting?
JACK: Well, this is a nice little path to investigate, right? You’ve got a Kik username now. Well, going on Kik, you can’t really see what he’s up to there, but they were pretty familiar with searching 4chan. So, they looked through 4chan for that Kik username, and this opened them up to a huge trove of posts that he had been making to 4chan. Of course, they had to drive through this filth to make sense of it, but what they discovered was that he wasn’t harassing just the twins. He was posting nudes of other women, too.
CHRISTINE: We find it’s the same five women and girls, ‘cause some of them are underage at the time.
JACK: Hm, interesting. He seemed to be obsessively posting nudes of the same five women. [MUSIC] He didn’t have a wide array of nudes that he was posting. He was focused about it, zoomed in to only five women, harassing each of them almost in a cycle, going through each of them and then back around to the first, making each of their lives hell. This is interesting because what’s the correlation here, right? Are these five women connected in any way? To start with, the sisters didn’t know any of these other victims, but this started a whole new investigation into each of these women. It actually helped that he was posting their phone numbers and socials. Some were in Florida near Christine and Madison, actually, but some were in New York. They had some ideas who might know all these people, but they weren’t sure. It seemed like someone they should know personally, but all the people who they suspected, there’s just no way it could be them. But still, the data they got from this Kik user was massive to their investigation.
MADISON: Yeah, so, it was just a huge break. So, it was me, Christine, my sister, Dana, and then my friend John. All four of us were working on this at this time. So, once that happened and we got the Kik usernames kind of sorted and figured out that we could cross-reference it, I was like, oh my gosh, back to the Snapchat from — at this point, I think that was probably four or five years prior. It was a long time ago. [MUSIC] I went back to it and we — when I took the Snap of it, which was right after I got the message of ‘oh, what a beautiful sunset’, it was the last person that had viewed my Snap, and I didn’t even think that like, oh — I was so quick at Snapping it the second that he messaged me that it makes sense that it was the last person that saw it, because he went on there, saw it, messaged me, ‘hey, beautiful sunset’. I immediately went on, Snapped the screenshot of who saw it, and that all probably happened within a minute. So, it makes sense that — I’m like — at that point, I’m like, duh, this is the person. It has to be.
JACK: What was his first name?
JACK: Christopher. They figured it out. They unmasked their attacker. It had to be Christopher. All the signs pointed to him now, and the creepy part was they all knew Christopher. She had been friends with him on Snapchat for years, which was why he could see the photos there. Where do you know Christopher from?
MADISON: We knew him from college. He was my brother-in-law of Dana’s fraternity brother at the college that Christine, Dana, and I went to.
JACK: Wait, Dana, this is one of your friends?
DANA: Yeah, that’s correct.
JACK: What was your relationship to him back in the fraternity?
DANA: You know, he was a close friend. He had been to my house that I grew up in in Connecticut and met my parents. We went to concerts together. I knew his family. I had Fourth of July out on Long Island with his dad and his brother. He wasn’t my best friend in the world, but certainly he was closer than most. He was a good friend of mine and I had known him for over a decade when this had all happened. It was…
MADISON: He went to our wedding.
DANA: It was insane. He was at our wedding. It’s insane.
JACK: What? So…
MADISON: With one of his other victims.
JACK: So, know — having that history with him and then saying, wait, is it him, how does — what is your gut feeling out of that?
DANA: I remember the night that we figured out it was him very vividly. This one will stick out to me for the rest of my life. I was getting home from a trip as an airline pilot, and I got a call from Madison. [MUSIC] I don’t ever receive phone calls from Madison. We don’t call; we text. So, if I get a phone call, something’s wrong. I pick up the phone and she’s like, I think we might know who it is. I’m like, really? She’s like, yeah, I’m pretty sure. I was like, well, spit it out. Don’t make me wait. She goes, Yankee. I’m like, come on. No fucking way. Right? First of all, one of my close friends. Second of all, I didn’t even think he was intelligent enough or tech-savvy enough to even figure out how 4chan worked. If you knew him well, it had to have taken him a while to figure it out. We are not dealing with a rocket surgeon here. So, I couldn’t — I told her — I was like, no way. Mind this, Jack; it had been years where anybody in the room could have been the guy, and there were accusations flung at just about anybody in our life. You know what I mean? It’s this guy, it’s that guy, it’s this guy, it’s your best friend, it’s — you know.
JACK: Yeah, and I remember Madison telling me things like — just walking around the streets, like, why is that guy looking at me that way? Is he the guy? All these kind of just weird feelings.
DANA: Right. Can you imagine? You know what I mean? If those are your photos on the internet and every single person in your life was a suspect, it’s gotta be horrible, right? I had heard them postulate that it could be one of my friends several times, and I always said, no, no, and I did exactly what I did on that night; I said, there’s no freaking way. It’s not him. One, I don’t think he’s got it in him. He’s not that malicious. Two, I think he’s too dumb to even figure all this out, you know? But it kinda rattled around in my brain and I couldn’t sleep that night. So, I got home and I started looking up the Kik names. [MUSIC] I started connecting the Kik names, and that’s what you can do on 4chan. Or, you can’t do it even on 4chan ‘cause it disappears within two hours. But the 4chan archive sites, you can search them, and that’s how we sort of tied him to all these posts, was he had about five or six Kik names, and I just searched the Kik names. It would — all these random women would come up, including my wife and her sister. Then there was one that stuck out that night and it was a girl, a young girl. Looked to be thirteen, fourteen years old in a Catholic school outfit that was posted by the same user as the ones who were — as the user that was harassing my wife and my sister-in-law.
I downloaded the photo. It was not a nude photo. It was just a girl. It was a girl and the text attached to it was horrifying; something like, I want nudes of this girl or I want to rape her or something. So, I download this photo and there’s an embroidered crest or logo on her school uniform. It’s kinda pixelated but I down — I enhanced it and I sharpened it and I sharpened it, and I finally was able to make out the words on this photo. It turns out it was a Catholic girls’ middle school, middle school in Daytona. So, I said, hm, okay, well, I know he’s got family in Daytona. Maybe there’s something here. So, you jump on Facebook and within ten minutes I was able to find the girl’s name and her mom and dad’s name, and they were mutual friends and identified family members on his Facebook page. That was his little cousin, and that’s kinda when it all hit. Like, holy shit, it’s him. Then once you had that key piece of information, you keep going back through the other women that he’s posting on the 4chan site and you cross-reference it to Facebook. Mutual friend; bang. Mutual friend; bang. Mutual friend, and there it was. We knew who it was that night, and I just — I absolutely couldn’t fucking believe it.
JACK: Yeah, I imagine a long stare out the window. Like, what was — why did I have this person in my life at all?
DANA: Oh my god, and the guilt. Can you imagine? If the twins had never met me, they never meet this guy. You know what I mean? Just the weight of guilt. I invited him to social functions all the time. He was a bit of an outcast and an outsider. I’d invite him in just ‘cause he was a friend of mine, almost like a sympathy invite to stuff, and I was the one who introduced him to my wife and my sister-in-law, and he in turn tried to destroy their lives. There’s a lot of guilt involved with that.
JACK: Wow, they did it. They figured out who the asshole was, and they were all kind of shell-shocked by it. This guy who was at their wedding did this? What a monster. You think you know someone, but then this happens. But Christine, being a lawyer, she wanted more evidence and kept going through the Kik posts.
CHRISTINE: We found this random post that had nothing to do with any of the girls or women, but it was a photo that was what we assumed to be his house. We actually reached out to his fiance at the time and was like, hey, do you know — are you still with this person? Is this your house? Kind of thing. She’s like, yeah, that’s my house. She kinda confirmed for us that that was where she had lived with him. So, we had that as a clue as well.
JACK: Okay, alright, they’ve really got this guy nailed now. All of the harassment, all of the nudes, all of the nightmare was stemming from this one person. Yeah, he was able to get others to join in on the harassment, but if it wasn’t for him, nobody else would be harassing these women. Just knowing this is such a relief in a way. You’re dealing with the darkness and anonymity of the internet. You have no idea how many people are behind your harassment. But now it’s clear. It’s one guy, Christopher, and they know everything about him. But he didn’t know they were on to him, and so he kept up his harassment campaign, calling bosses, sending nudes to their friends, and asking others to join in.
MADISON: [MUSIC] I think the nature of online cyber-harassment is that you don’t have anywhere to run to. So, if you’re getting bullied or physically harassed, you’re like, okay, I can at least run home and retreat to my room and, you know, be depressed in bed. But you’re constantly being harassed and you can’t forget anything at home because it’s just nonstop being harassed.
JACK: You know that some women have killed themselves over this.
MADISON: Yes. One of the victims, she actually tried to kill herself as well. So, one of the girls, she had a really rough time and tried committing suicide as well.
JACK: Wow. That is awful. This is what I mean…
MADISON: I definitely feel — I definitely can — like, I don’t want to say, oh, I was definitely suicidal, but there were definitely times when I was like, is this worth it? I don’t know. I was just very down. It was just really rough. Then getting my twin sister involved, there were actual days where I was like, her life would be better without me in it. I could definitely see how it’s so easy to get so depressed in a situation like this.
JACK: So, I feel like there’s a meeting now, right? You, Madison, and Christine are like, okay, we know what’s going on. We know who it is. What’s the plan going forward? Am I picturing it right?
DANA: No, that’s exactly correct. It was a super delicate situation, right, because we’d already had very limited success with law enforcement to care, to give a shit about what’s happening, but we decided as a group that our only real shot to get some attention here is in numbers, right? We know that there’s five-ish other women and girls who are being harassed at the same time. They must be going through hell themselves. In order to get any sort of prosecution, he, one — we didn’t want him to wipe his hard drives, and two, we didn’t necessarily want him to stop immediately and go into a hole. So, we had to be kind of — we wanted to be behind-the-scenes on this, but we had to also band the other women together without them tipping him off, really. So, that was our next move, was to figure out how to do that.
CHRISTINE: Yeah, and to tie this back to the post about the back porch; so, his current fiance, again, one of the victims, some — occasionally he would post weird things like nudes of himself, even, without a face, just different fetishes or desires, and I think in this particular case with the back porch — so, his fiance at the time — that’s their shared home — her testimony’s kind of important at that instance, of like, hey, confirm this is your back porch. So, we really wanted to loop her in, but she’s his current fiance. Can we trust this person? You try to think of how you would react in a situation, but not knowing the person on the other end, we don’t personally know her. We didn’t know any of these women. So, we didn’t know how they were gonna react to any of this. So, we weren’t really quite sure when to — or if we should even loop them in. So, ultimately we eventually decided we all need to band together. Individually they’re not — they don’t care, but if we can band together, show that this is a bigger issue than just one person getting harassed and this is an issue for society as a whole, maybe they’ll take us seriously. So, at that point, that’s kind of when we reached out to them on any social media platform or contact information that we could find and kind of filled them in at that point.
MADISON: [MUSIC] Two of the girls had previously caught him as well, and this was before we had gotten in communication with the six victims. So, one of the girls was one of his ex-girlfriends from college, so she obviously knew where the photos came from. She was fairly certain it was him and she felt close enough to the father — his name’s John — she felt close enough to reach out to him and be like, hey, Chris is doing some really bad things. He’s posting my pictures. There’s thousands of posts. He needs to stop. I’m getting the police involved, but can you please help me? He promised her that he would talk to him, would get him into counselling, would help him; just please don’t press charges. Same thing happened to another victim that was a family friend up there. She actually narrowed down that it was him after just how he uses punctuation. He would use three dots and a space, which I was like, wow, you thought of that? That’s actually so good.
She literally narrowed it down by that and then called him out on Facebook Messenger. They, and ‘they’ as in Chris and his dad and brother, both named John, they convinced her not to press charges if he promised to stop. She says, you have to get help. I’ve been a family friend for a very long time. I feel for you. I love you and your family. I want you to get help. At this point she didn’t know what the extent of it was to other people. She thought she was the only one. So, she felt horrible when we all got ahold of her and was telling her what was going on. But — and obviously wanted to be in our group and help. So, we actually had all of the confessions of him confessing it and his brother confessing that he had known that he does this and will get him help. Fast forward; they never got him help. He continued to harass innocent women and children for years and years to come after that.
JACK: So, they got all the victims together on the same page, six total, and they were all really sick and tired from being harassed by this guy. They were shocked to find out Christopher was the one behind it, because they all knew him.
DANA: There were a few other women that we didn’t — never even reached out to that he was…
CHRISTINE: Yeah, yeah.
DANA: …efforting nudes of them, too, at the same time, but we didn’t even — we had enough at that point.
JACK: So, Christine created quite a compelling folder of evidence for each of the women to take into their own police departments and hand into the police.
CHRISTINE: I compiled essentially a binder of facts and circumstantial evidence that connect — ‘cause again, we don’t have legal evidence at this point, too. This is all kind of circumstantial evidence at this point. When we looped in the other girls, we did, again, have screenshots of some confessions and things like that, so pretty substantial circumstantial evidence, but circumstantial nonetheless. No subpoenas at this point or anything like that. So, Dana and Madison and I compile this little Revenge Porn for Dummies, kind of. Knowing our experience going into the sheriff’s office, knowing that this is gonna be a fight, let’s be armed with the law at least. Let’s be right. Let’s have the laws printed out and referenced in front of us. They have to listen to us, right? So, we compiled this little binder. We had background, we had each individual victim and a snippet of their backstory, we had any potential law that I saw that could potentially be violated from each jurisdiction including federal.
JACK: Yeah, let’s back up. I want to pause there for a second ‘cause that’s fascinating to me, ‘cause that’s your wheelhouse. I bet you spent a lot of time doing that. Can you just talk about what you think he was doing that was against the law?
CHRISTINE: Again, I’m a very, very young attorney at this point. Like, first year, right? So, I think I’m hot shit, but I don’t really know that much. But I did take internet law and social media law and things like that that interested me in law school, and you have that base knowledge at least of where to find the law, at least. So, I was familiar with the Florida statute ‘cause again, that was just — interested me and I thought it was a move in the right direction.
JACK: [MUSIC] Okay, so, this Florida statute, enacted in 2015; Section 748049 states that the crime of sexual cyber-harassment is committed when a person publishes a sexually-explicit image of another person along with personal identifying information of the depicted person to a website without the depicted person’s consent for no legitimate purpose and with intent of causing the depicted person substantial emotional distress. Boom. Perfect. He definitely violated that one, but she did her research. She didn’t want to rely on just one statute. Since he was posting nudes of underage girls, he was also violating child pornography statutes. Since he was calling people’s bosses and parents and stuff, why not throw in stalking, too? Hell, there’s even an aggravating stalking statute which is a felony charge, and if he was stalking a minor, that would constitute as aggravated stalking. But Christopher was living in New York State, so maybe all these Florida laws don’t even matter. So, Christine studied the laws in New York to figure out which ones he violated there. She found statutes like sexual performance by a child, extortion, unlawful surveillance, dissemination of unlawful surveillance imagery, and stalking. Okay, so, those were the state laws that she thinks he violated, but are there any federal laws that she can point to?
CHRISTINE: There’s no federal law for revenge porn or sexual cyber-harassment or anything like that, but there are prohibitions against cyber-stalking and cyber-harassment.
JACK: Great. Yeah, just keep going. So, you bring this whole body of knowledge to them. You slap it down and say, here’s the circumstantial evidence that we have on him. Here are the laws that we think he’s breaking…
DANA: And here’s the guy, here’s the dude that’s doing it. You guys don’t even have to go out and find who it is. We already did it. Just please do something.
JACK: Okay, and what’d they say?
CHRISTINE: So, Dana was actually there with me, too. I march in with my little binder, and again, I hope that most people don’t ever have to go report a crime like this, but when you go, obviously you don’t want to call 911. You go into the police station.
JACK: You go in with your lawyer — your best lawyer outfit, too…
CHRISTINE: Yes. I was probably honestly coming back from work, so I already had my lawyer uniform or costume on, you know?
JACK: Okay, so, you don’t call 911. You go — what do you do?
CHRISTINE: You go into the — I mean, theoretically you could call the non-emergency line, but you go into the police station. There’s a desk with a police officer who is either hopefully new or did something really bad to get this position, because you’re just sitting behind a desk, right? You walk up and they’re like, bored. They’re just sitting there. You’re like, I’d like to report a crime and fill out a police report. Then they depose you. They absolutely depose you. Well, what happened? Well, I actually have this whole thing together, so you can just read it if you want. In fact, I made a copy. Here; here’s a copy. Flipping through it — hm, this isn’t a crime. How’d they get the photos? You hear all of it. I’m like, where are your credentials? Can you just hand this off to a detective and let them make the decision on whether this is a crime or not? Not to be rude, but I don’t really trust your judgement when your job is to sit behind the desk. They don’t even trust you out on the street with a gun, bud. Get this to the real detective, please. So, ultimately we were there for over an hour begging them just to let me fill out a police report, just to — for the opportunity and privilege to fill out this police report. So, ultimately…
JACK: So, I imagine that they just say, oh, here’s a form. Fill it out, and then goodbye.
JACK: They’re not gonna do anything. But they wouldn’t even let you fill a form out.
CHRISTINE: No, and that’s what shocked me, too. I’m like, at least give me the form. So, ultimately I demanded that I have the form. So, he was just done with talking to me, I’m sure, and gave me the form to fill out.
JACK: Okay, so, that was your experience. How did the other women do?
CHRISTINE: Six of us go into police stations scattered all over the country; two in New York, one in Central Florida, one in Daytona area, Madison in Melbourne, and me in Manatee County, and two of us came back with police reports. Two.
JACK: [MUSIC] What? Oh, this is so frustrating. Police? Hello, police? What are you doing? How are you turning away these women who have brought you every shred of evidence to make an arrest and point it to the guy and said, there he is, officer. This is an open and shut case, and you’re doing nothing. Come on. I’m so mad right now. Look, I gotta — I need a minute. I’m just putting my headphones down. I’m walking away for a minute.
CHRISTINE: So, it made its way to a detective, and ultimately the detective looked at it and was like, yeah, we’re not capable of handling this. I’m gonna send this to the local FBI office. So, my Manatee County Sheriff’s Department is the only one out of the six that actually did the right thing and moved the file to the proper jurisdiction. If it were anybody else, they might even still just be sitting there as local police reports, which is insane to think about, right?
JACK: Yes. Yeah, there’s so many levels of frustration here.
CHRISTINE: Yes. And shout out to the FBI, ‘cause they are amazing once you can actually get to them.
JACK: Yes. So, the FBI are like, wow, this is — a lot of work is done here, but this is circumstantial evidence. We’re going to get direct evidence. So, they start subpoenaing…
JACK: …e-mails and stuff, right?
CHRISTINE: No. So, okay, that’s the interesting part of — as a — it’s a legal nerd interesting part. I’m sure you all have different parts that you find more fascinating than others.
JACK: Let’s get nerdy. I love it.
CHRISTINE: But that’s what’s so frustrating about the lack of police intervention and law enforcement intervention, is when you’re in law enforcement, you have the inherent authority, really, with probable cause to pull subpoenas.
JACK: So, let’s back up a second. They finally get the police to open this police report, but this whole time, they were trying to collect as much evidence as they could on this guy. Now, one thing the police can do is send a subpoena to 4chan or Kik or any of these websites and say, hey, we want the information on this user, and those sites have to comply with US law if they’re based in the US. So, they would give the police this user’s data without a fuss. But if Christine wants information on a user, these sites are not gonna give it to her. She doesn’t have the subpoena power that the police have. However, she’s got a trick up her sleeve to get that power.
CHRISTINE: [MUSIC] I can file a lawsuit and then open discovery and then have the subpoena power to get subpoenas from different people or entities and things like that. So, what Madison and I ended up having to do is file a lawsuit.
JACK: This was a civil lawsuit which they actually opened up before they even knew it was Christopher. They were so frustrated that the police weren’t helping them and they were like, fine, we’ll get the subpoena power ourselves. It’s gonna take some extra money and time, but they had to do something about this guy. Now, here’s the problem; they didn’t know his name when filing the civil suit, so they just filed it against John Doe. Basically, they were going to use the courts to be able to issue subpoenas to identify their harasser. But there’s another problem; as soon as the subpoena comes through, the site will likely inform Christopher that there’s a case against him and he’ll get to see who’s filing it. So, the sisters didn’t want to put their names as the victims of the case and instead wanted to file it anonymously, which I think should also be fine since they’re the victims. Courts should protect victims in cases like this, right?
CHRISTINE: The court declined our request to do that, so we had the decision at that time on whether or not we wanted to drop it or refile the complaint with our legal names in there and just knowing that that was gonna be on the Google forever if you Google our names. You can go in and look at all the fun drama of the case because it’s — the docket’s there, whereas the other victims in the case are protected. In the criminal case, you’ll notice it’s everyone’s initials and that’s to protect victims of a crime.
JACK: That’s another whole level of frustration, is that they would — they denied you to be anonymous — or just initials of the lawsuit, because, yeah, that opens you up to all kinds of other problems.
CHRISTINE: Correct. So…
JACK: Especially when you’re the victim. Oh, gosh.
CHRISTINE: Yeah, but — and again, through the civil process, you’re treated almost like you’re a gold digger looking for money or something. Like, every —opposing council, the magistrate, judges, everyone is acting like this is the most ridiculous case and that the — it was just very frustrating and it was just very eye-opening on, again, being a young lawyer and just seeing it from the other side on how the system really is not set up to help you at all.
JACK: [MUSIC] By this point, Christopher was well aware of what was going on. He knew they all knew it was him, and they were talking about it, too. I think his dad was telling everyone, okay, let’s all calm down. I’ll talk to Christopher and get him to stop. I’m sorry. But promise after promise was broken. He wasn’t stopping. He kept at it. He even apologized and admitted to it a few times, but then kept doing it. He somehow was addicted to harassing these women. Even with lawsuits, even with criminal cases open, he just wouldn’t stop. Luckily they were able to get the FBI’s attention on this.
DANA: So, I do want to stress that the minor, the fourteen-year-old, is so incredibly important to the story. I’m not sure — obviously the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office did the right thing by forwarding it to the FBI. I don’t think anybody would have given a shit if the minor wasn’t involved.
MADISON: Yeah, that’s part of it for sure.
DANA: Everything — obviously all these women went through some horrible things. I mean, his ex from college tried to commit suicide multiple times over this. That’s horrible. He was photographing his fiance in their private home and then posting it on the internet to get off to it. This is awful, right? And what they did to my wife and my sister-in-law who hadn’t — who were just out minding their own business and had nothing to do with this guy is horrible. But I don’t think anybody ultimately would have given a shit, really, if this girl was not involved. The posts were abhorrent. He was basically trying to hire someone on 4chan to rape her and video it and then send it to him, and I think that’s what ultimately got the attention to the case.
JACK: Yikes. What a mess at every turn. So, thank goodness the FBI was looking into this. We’ve got a monster on the loose. Go get him.
MADISON: Yeah, so, they basically had to recreate all of our subpoenas that my sister and I had done. So, on the civil side we were sending out subpoenas on our behalf, on the civil side, so that’s how we had all of the information to bring to the police stations. So, they — we obviously gave them that information, but from an investigative standpoint, they still have to recreate them. But it had pretty much already been done, so it was a good start for them. They don’t tell victims much, so I don’t know if they found more in their search, but they definitely recreated our subpoenas to the different IPs and IP addresses, and then eventually got to make an arrest.
JACK: Arrested. [CLAPPING] Thank goodness. I don’t think I can handle anymore problems. Actually, the arrest was a non-event. It was more like that he went down to the police station himself to talk to them and they processed him, and he went back home. But at least the perp is recognized and identified and the court dates were set. Listening to these sisters, I don’t think there was any way for him to stop on his own. He was just too far gone into it. But what’s amazing is these two sisters, they were relentless about fighting back, and because Christine was a lawyer, she knew what avenues you could go down and what laws to wield in order to fight this. The average person isn’t gonna know that you can use a civil lawsuit in order to get courts to issue subpoenas for you, and then use that information to open a criminal case at the same time. The fact that they didn’t want to just try to open one case, but to have six different women all get cases open at the same time on this guy? It’s just brilliant work by them. What’s the saying that they like saying?
CHRISTINE: We’ll solve any crime by dinnertime. Dinnertime just happened to be ten years later, so we would have starved to death.
DANA: Yeah, this took over ten years of trying to…
JACK: Ten years? Who in the world has the energy and drive to continue harassing the same women for ten solid years? Apparently this guy, Christopher, did. [MUSIC] So, what happens to him? Well, he was arrested, right? Clearly there was a ton of evidence of his crimes, including him admitting to his victims and promising to stop. So, when he goes to court, there’s no other option for him to plead guilty, which means no trial was needed. Skip all that since he’s admitting to it. But there’s still the court proceeding to figure out his punishment, a sentencing hearing. Clearly this man has caused great harm to these women, but can the women influence what the judge decides the sentence should be? Hell yeah they can.
CHRISTINE: He fucked with the wrong ladies.
JACK: Christine wanted all the victims to march into the courtroom during the sentencing hearing and voice themselves to let the judge know how much he hurt them, because it’s going to be up to the judge to decide the sentence, and this is their only chance to make their voices heard. Before the court case, when was the last time you saw him?
CHRISTINE: Oh, god. Like, my wedding.
JACK: So, then when you see him in the court — ‘cause you walk in there, you see his face. Do you have a feeling?
CHRISTINE: I really don’t think I did, and if I did I blocked it out, because I think it had been so much time that if anything, I was just like, oh, he looks like shit. You know?
JACK: [LAUGHS] Yeah. I think that’s just…
CHRISTINE: I said — I think my exact words were, oh, they’re not starving him. He was very greasy.
MADISON: It was just — it was a weird feeling. It’s terrifying in a sense ‘cause you’re seeing this person in real life. His family is there in real life. You know you’re gonna have to go up and talk to the judge and give your case in real life, not knowing what the judge might think of the situation or even if he understands the situation in total, you know? It’s a very new crime, so there’s not a lot of examples of these kind of cases to go forward. It’s just scary all around. You’re — have random other people you don’t even know having to listen to your victim impact speech. It’s just — terrifying is the only word I can think of.
JACK: Was the judge — was there any stupid questions the judge asked that you remember?
MADISON: Oh my gosh, so, the judge was asking so many questions, and it was so scary because they almost sounded kind of victim-shamey at first, and I was like, oh my gosh, is he gonna — is this it? Is this the kind of judge that’s gonna be like, well, no, this is all your fault? I literally had it in my mind. I remember being a little defensive at some of his questions because he was interrupting my victim impact statement, which — it was very long, but he was interrupting as he thought of questions. So I was like, he’s not even letting me finish and he’s just blurting out questions as I’m reading this victim impact statement. It was so terrifying. Then he ended up really just being so confused at the whole situation, on why he’s doing this, and he was actually just really upset about everything that he had done, but he showed it by asking a lot of questions and it was so nerve-wracking. In court, the judge was like, what’s a nip slip? I was like, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Your nipple pops out of the shirt or whatever you’re wearing [LAUGHS].
JACK: The victims gave their impact statement. It was fucking good. Christopher was realizing shit’s not going well for him at all.
CHRISTINE: He’s allowed to talk after all of us, and so, we had the whole dramatic him turning to us and apologizing to Dana first, by the way, so that was funny. But he turns to us and the crowd, and the United States attorney and the FBI agents are kinda standing in-between us, like, do not come closer. Like, I’m gonna dropkick you, kinda thing. And the, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’, the dramatic effect and all of that.
JACK: The judge said the range for sentencing is three to six years for cases like this. The defense attorney was arguing to give him the lower end of that. The prosecuting attorney was arguing, give him the higher end.
DANA: I think I remember us all talking in the hallway and being like, dude, if he gets five years, we’d be over the moon.
JACK: Because the victim impact statements took so long, they had to come back a second day just to hear the sentence. [MUSIC] So, the next day they all come back into the courtroom. They sit down. They ask Christopher to stand up while the judge reads the sentence to him. The judge sentenced him to fifteen years in prison.
MADISON: It was — we all just — it was me, my sister, Dana, one of our friends had come to support us, and my boyfriend, now fiance, Bryce. We were in there and I literally just breathed heavy and grabbed my fiance’s hand and I was like, oh my gosh, we did it.
CHRISTINE: Oh yeah, it was super dramatic.
JACK: Dana, did you cry when they announced the sentence?
DANA: I did, yeah. I think we all had our own range of emotions, but I certainly did. There was a lot going on there, you know? This was a person that I’ve known for almost two decades and cared for at one point, and then it was also a person who inflicted some of the worst emotional harm upon my family they could even imagine. So, that coupled with how long and hard — and the nights we stayed up ‘til 4:00 in the morning trying to compile all these things and put this case together and to get law enforcement to care, for it all — to see somebody that you once cared about essentially have their lives ended in the same moment that a case that you’ve put so much effort towards, to get somebody to care, to end that person’s life all happening at the same moment was unbelievable. I did — I didn’t think I would react that way, but I did. I was…
CHRISTINE: Yeah, I don’t think I remember you crying. I’m sure you did. I remember Madison crying. I remember Madison crying during her victim impact statement, too. I think I compartmentalized myself to be in lawyer mode, so I don’t think I got emotional at all. I was just kinda stone cold face, but I was definitely excited.
DANA: You’re just staring at his eyes, like, mm-hm, mm-hm.
CHRISTINE: Yeah, I was just staring at him even when he was doing his whole thing. But yeah, I think — I definitely remember feeling excited, like, wow, this judge listened to us and was in utter shock and disbelief of how bad this was, and I think it was just that validation, even. Like Dana was saying, there’s so much sweat and tears that go into this from all aspects of it that it was just validating more than anything, that, wow, if put in the correct venue, this — you can make a difference and they care. We made a difference, you know?
JACK: Now, even though the sentencing range was three to six years, it’s at the discretion of the judge to assign the sentence, and he apparently was so moved by the victims that he basically tripled the high end of the range and gave him fifteen years. Incredible. Fifteen years in prison for cyber-harassment. Whoa, that’s quite a bit, actually, isn’t it? Is that too much? Hold on, he spent ten years harassing Madison, making her life hell. That’s a long time for someone to suffer, and that’s just one person. Well, what an ending, huh? The victims won one, finally. But sorry, that’s not the end. The defense attorney found a problem in the ruling; some procedural error in the case. [MUSIC] I think it had something to do with the sentencing range. They were saying the initial range was calculated incorrectly, which may have influenced the judge’s decision on what to sentence him. This meant the case was reopened and it meant a new judge had to come in and take a look at this case and issue a new sentence. So, just when they thought that they had this wrapped up and the healing process could begin, the sisters and other victims were sucked back into the case. Scabs were ripped off again. The pain and fear was felt all over again.
CHRISTINE: Yes. So, at this point — again, probably a character flaw, but we’re just like, this is funny at this point. At least that’s how I’m feeling. I’m like, this is terrible, but you gotta laugh, right? Like, what are the odds? So, yeah, we had to go back and do a sentencing. At this point I’m pregnant, so, we were hoping it wasn’t in an inconvenient time, but ultimately we had to go back almost a year later, I believe. Dana, do you think that sounds right?
DANA: Yeah. It was just a touch over a year. For sure, Jack, Christine’s a badass, but for me, personally, I see this happen and I’m like, oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. This is how he gets off. This is how he gets off. We had the one judge who gave a shit and the guy who took all these factors into account and understood what really happened here and nailed him with the sentence that he actually deserved, and now we’re kicked back to another judge who’s maybe not gonna quite understand what actually happened here, ‘cause they’re all a million years old. None of them — the last time they were on the internet was AOL. They don’t understand what this is.
MADISON: It was so frustrating.
JACK: All the victims had to travel all the way back to court and relive their traumas by reading their victim impact statements again. More crying. More emotions. Hell, I’d even say this retrial is re-victimizing the victims.
CHRISTINE: So, luckily, the judge did agree with the original judge’s decision that it was a horrible crime, that he did not learn his lesson. The only reason he wanted to show remorse was once he got caught, and the judge saw right through him and gave him the same exact amount of time, fifteen years.
JACK: [MUSIC] Of course they were on edge waiting for a decision like this to be announced in the courtroom. So, when it’s spoken, it results in another emotional moment for the victims, more crying. Okay, so, they won the criminal case against him again, but there was that civil lawsuit they had against him, too, remember? Well, when Christopher saw that he was likely going to lose that civil lawsuit, he filed for bankruptcy to avoid having to pay any fines or restitution that would be part of that suit. The sisters won that case, but since he had filed for bankruptcy, they didn’t get any money, which really wasn’t the point. The point of that case was just to give them the ability to gather evidence and to figure out who was behind this. But still, all this actually came to a big financial cost to the sisters. There were expensive lawyer fees. They had to travel to court to give victim impact statements. There were costs associated to getting subpoenas and opening a civil suit, and that’s just the legal cost. How much time did they spend investigating this? Doesn’t that add up to something? Of course, how much pain and suffering was caused. This was traumatic. So, they mentioned all this in the criminal case and told the judge during the sentencing, hey man, this has been draining to us emotionally, but also our money. So, when the judge sentenced him to fifteen years, he also took all these costs into consideration.
MADISON: He had the fifteen years and then he also owes my sister and I money for our damages. We’re probably never gonna see a dime of that in our lives, but it was a nice add-on that they understood our struggles, you know?
JACK: I think that brings us to the end.
CHRISTINE: Yeah. Happy ending. [LAUGHS]
MADISON: Yeah, it was really emotional. The last sentence in my victim impact speech kinda summarized it, and it was ‘the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.’ That quote just gets me every time because I don’t think I personally could have won or survived without any of the other girls. We’re constantly gonna have almost this sisterhood of — like a pack of wolves. [LAUGHS] We didn’t even know each other. Most of us didn’t know each other before this.
(OUTRO): [OUTRO MUSIC] A big thank-you to Madison, Christine, and Dana for coming on the show and sharing this emotional roller-coaster of a story with us. It’s so inspirational. When nobody would help them, they became their own advocate and fought back. I love that. They fought cleanly, too. That’s the thing that gets me about this story. They didn’t harass him back or do any of the things that he did to them. Instead, they trudged through the legal system to get justice. Amazing. I mentioned earlier I did an episode about Kik. That’s Episode 93 if you want to listen to it. If you thought this episode was awful, that one is worse. So, yeah, actually, just skip that episode altogether. This episode was created by me, the faded raider, Jack Rhysider, sound design by the resurrected suspect, Andrew Meriwether, and this episode was assembled by the slinky drink, Tristan Ledger, mixing by Proximity Sound, and our theme music is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. My new year’s resolution is 4K. This is Darknet Diaries.
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