Somewhere on his hate site, Hillyard said,
You see, anyone with $10.00, can swear out a warrant on someone and have them arrested by swearing under oath what they believe to be true facts.That only works in Hillyard-land. He doesn't have a lot of experience on this side of the criminal system, though. Remember, most of his experience is riding in the back seat of the car with the shiny lights, the one with the doors you can't open from the inside? I guess we can't expect him to know that much about how these things work.
Back here in the reality of law-abiding citizen land, what happens is that when you're a victim of a crime, you have to convince the police that a crime has occurred. Then you have to get them to take a report. And act on it. And even then, there's no guarantee that anyone will be arrested, or if they're arrested, that anyone will choose to prosecute. It's all a crapshoot.
That was one of the hardest things to do at all—just get the police to take a report! "Prostitution ads in your name? Nothing I can do 'bout that. Call a lawyer." They didn't know how to handle anything transmitted via the Internet. Sure, had the same words been written or even printed on a computer printed and delivered physically, they'd be terroristic threats, no question—but on the Internet? "Um, I dunno, lady. Get a restraining order?" (These are all quotes from the Dekalb county patrol officer who came out to take the first report.
I'm nothing if not stubborn, though, and I insisted that an officer take a report about the threatening email I'd received saying the sender had followed us home.
It was easier to get them to take a harassing phone calls report, at least—they're accustomed to those.
Well, I went to the Dekalb County Courthouse, where I was given a form to complete to request a restraining order. Unfortunately, the form assumed it was a domestic violence case, or that we had been lovers in the past. I pointed out that it wasn't suitable in this circumstance. The courthouse clerks are loathe to answer any questions for fear of being charged with practicing law without a license, so they really weren't any help at all. A woman who said she was a judge (I didn't get her name, but the clerks didn't say anything to counter her claim) happened to be standing there, and she told me I should go ahead and use that form—lie if I had to. I told her I was not going to claim a relationship with Hillyard—what a disgusting thought! She said my only option, then, was to retain a civil attorney to file the appropriate papers requesting a restraining order. Essentially, if you can afford protection go right ahead.
Unfortunately, filing a police report doesn't mean much. They don't follow up on them, apparently, unless it's a crime they consider significant or unless the person who filed the report keeps nagging them. I nagged until the case was assigned to Detective Wynne. She was an angel—the first person in any sort of authority who took the case seriously.
She knew, though, that there were no precedents in Georgia, as did the judge who issued the warrant. Both had used online services, so they knew a little about about the net, but not much. They knew that Hillyard had a record of serious criminal offenses, though, so they kept trying. They finally decided to charge him with simple assault, because in Georgia that offense includes any act that give a person reason to believe she is in danger of imminent physical injury. The warrant, issued on August 23, 1996, was the first of its kind in Georgia, and one of the first in the nation. The conditions of bail included a stay away order, which isn't very unusual—what was unusual was that the judge specified that it included contact via computer. I had no involvement in choosing the offense with which Hillyard was charged, and had Detective Wynne and the judge not believe that Hillyard had committed a crime, there would have been no warrant. One cannot simply pay a fee, claim that a particular person committed a crime, and have a warrant put out for that person's arrest. The prosecutor's office later changed the charge to stalking—again, not a decision I made or could have made.
For unknown reasons the harassing phone calls case was assigned to another detective in another division, Detective Burch. I believe having two different detectives treating these as separate cases contributed to not having all the evidence in hand at the trial. On September 24 she got a warrant for harassing phone calls after two calls were traced to Hillyard's home number on September 17 and September 20.* Again, a stay away order was a condition of bail.
Because the charges were filed in Dekalb, the county where I lived, and Hillyard lived in Gwinnett, the warrants had to be served by the Gwinnett County Sherrif's department. That took a ridiculous amount of time, but Detective Wynne finally got a fire lit under them and Hillyard was arrested on September 14. The Dekalb County jail employees goofed, though. They didn't notice the stay away order as a condition of bail, so Hillyard got out of jail without having to appear before a judge and sign the order.
Hillyard was arrested again around September 30 or October 1, and on October 1 he appeared before a judge and signed the stay away order as a condition of bail.
Detectives Wynne and Burch had told me I'd hear from the prosecutor's office about testifying as a witness in the case. I waited and waited, but heard nothing, so I finally called them. I learned that assistant solicitor Noah Pines was the prosecutor assigned to the case. He had pretty much decided not to prosecute, because Hillyard and Hillyard's attorney had given him the impression that I was a prostitute with whom Hillyard had a business dispute! Of course, I quickly dispelled that notion.
Unfortunately, nobody in the prosecutor's office had ever even used email. They had no Internet access. They had absolutely no clue as to what most of the evidence I could give them meant—but they did try. Sort of.
In addition, these people work under an incredible case load with far too few resources, so what they do have is used to delve into the most serious cases. Although I had put together a detailed list of the records that needed to be obtained from various parties, very few of those were actually requested, and they were not presented at the trial. Only one of the two trace reports from BellSouth were presented at the trial, and one important witness (from BellSouth) had not even been called to be present. The prosecutor also failed to subpoena records from MindSpring, GNN, PSI or any of the other ISPs involved in the case, and did not call any outside witnesses to explain the technical aspects of the case.
The arraignment was originally scheduled for December 4, 1996 but was postponed. Hillyard was arraigned on January 8, 1997. He appeared with a defense lawyer (but not the one he'd had back in October—I'm not sure if he'd been through two or three lawyers by then), pled not guilty and requested a trial by jury.
In early March Hillyard's attorney, R. Stephen Roberts, sent me a message through Mr. Pines asking that I contact him. While I did return his call, he never was available and never returned my calls. In October 1997 a reporter, Edward Miller, was trying to find Roberts' phone number to interview him. He told me that he had learned that Roberts was not listed with the Bar Association in Georgia. (Hillyard has since pointed out that Roberts is indeed listed, but not as "Steve Roberts in Atlanta" which is, apparently, the way Miller worded his inquiry to the bar association when he called them—Roberts' office is in Decatur, a suburb of Atlanta). He did finally get a number for Roberts, and says he left many messages. Roberts' secretary finally told him that Roberts would not be returning his calls because they considered the case closed.
The next hearing was in March. Hillyard was again asked for his plea and whether he wanted a trial by jury. He again pled not guilty, but agreed to a bench trial (no jury).
The trial was put on Judge Workman's calendar for March—after all the other 1997 cases and the cases left over from 1996 that were still to be heard. It was repeatedly postponed, but finally took place on July 19, 1997. The stalking and harassing phone calls charges were both on the calendar. The prosecutor chose to present the harassing phone calls charge first.
Unfortunately, he did not have all the evidence in hand—he only had the records from BellSouth showing one call traced to Hillyard's home, rather than two. Showing that there was more than one call traced successfully would have made the case much stronger, although it isn't required by Georgia law (despite Hillyard's claims to the contrary).
To establish the pattern of harassment, the whole history from the original email in July 1997 forward was presented.
Pines called Jim Seligman, Hillyard's former boss from the Centers for Disease Control, as his only witness. (He tried to get someone from the phone company, but hadn't arranged for the man to already be there, and the judge wouldn't wait for the witness to arrive.) I had to leave the courtroom while he gave his testimony, so I must rely on others' account of what he said rather than my own memory. If anyone wishes to pay the several hundred dollars to get a transcript of the trial and provide me with a certified copy of that transcript, I'll be happy to read it and correct any inaccuracies. Until that time, I'm sticking with what has been related to me by those who were in the courtroom.
Seligman testified that harassing newsgroup posts were indeed sent out of the CDC's Internet gateway in July 1996, but that since they couldn't absolutely prove that Hillyard was the person sending them, he wasn't fired—yet. They gave him an official reprimand and warned him that any other use of the Internet gateway that wasn't directly work related would result in his dismissal. Seligman testified that Hillyard had claimed that his son had sent me obscene email using Hillyard's MindSpring account. Hillyard also tried to blame other employees for the newsgroup posts, but couldn't say just who those employees were or why they would have made such posts when he was the one with an axe to grind against me and MindSpring. The prosecutor's assistant had an excellent view of Mrs. Hillyard's face during Seligman's testimony, and she said it was obvious from Mrs. Hillyard's expression that she did not know that Hillyard had blamed his son for his actions, and that she was disgusted.
Seligman said that after the warning, a packet sniffer was placed on the network connection for Hillyard's work area. In August 16, 1996 other CDC employees visually observed Hillyard visiting sexually explicit sites on the Internet. The packet sniffer recorded a very high volume of information begin sent out to the Internet, and the records showed that the word "sex" and one of my email addresses showed up repeatedly in that stream of information. Network records showed Hillyard logged in to the network in that work area. That was the date and time that some of the sexually explicit messages were forged in my name and posted many sex-related newsgroups, along with pornographic pictures that had been altered to bear my email address.
Hillyard did not take the stand (criminals and their spouses cannot be compelled to testify at their trials). His attorney, Steve Roberts, strove to portray him as a church-going family man. Hillyard's wife and his two youngest children, ages 8 and 12, were present. The judge had the children sent from the courtroom, and someone else (perhaps Hillyard's daughter?) kept them company in another part of the building. Their presence was inappropriate in the first place.
Roberts attacked my motives and character, and displayed astounding ignorance of the Internet—he kept confusing usenet and email (I'm being charitable—he might just as easily have been doing that on purpose).
First Roberts attempted to prove that I was constantly involved in disagreements with other people on the Internet and therefore could have been targeted for harassment by other people. I said that yes, I'd been involved in flame wars, but that they were perfectly normal for conversation in usenet and that I'd never experienced any harassment before Hillyard came along.
Then he claimed that the only reason I'd filed a police report after receiving the threatening email was that it referred to me as a "fat bitch." I laughed at him—I refer to myself as a fat bitch. I have and had a web page about size acceptance. I proudly displayed the logo of Heartless Bitches International on my home page, letting people know that I'm a member. No, the phrase "fat bitch" lost any power it ever had to hurt me a very long time ago.
Roberts then took three posts I'd made out of context and twist them to imply that the nature of my use of the net is very sexually oriented. Three posts out of many hundreds made in the last few years—a percentage so small as to be vanishingly insignificant. Still, I remembered each of them enough to recall, at least vaguely, the context in which they were written. Details are available if anyone cares to read them, but what it boils down to is the fact that I've never sought any sexually explicit conversation or sexual companionship via the interent, and I certainly have not ever advertised in any medium as a provider of any sort of sexual services.
Roberts wanted the judge to believe that I did, in fact, seek out sexually explicit conversation with men on the Internet, and to imply that I might have posted the prostitution and other ads myself (despite the evidence from the CDC). To reach that conclusion on the basis of the above referenced messages is ludicrous, especially as none of them are sexually explicit in anything but a clinical sense. I've heard that rape victims are really put through the wringer when testifying against their attackers, and from this small taste of such treatment I can better understand why some of them are too afraid to press charges.
The judge told us that we had proven that I'd been harassed. She did not say, but strongly implied, that we'd proven that Hillyard was the person who harassed me. We proved that I'd received harassing phone calls. We'd proved that at least one call (remember, Pines didn't have the trace records of both calls) had been traced to Hillyard's home number. Unfortunately, it was only one call, and we couldn't prove that Hillyard himself was the person who dialed the number. Hillyard was found not guilty, which is a far cry from being found innocent. Criminal trials require that guilt be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and the same evidence that would have been more than enough in a civil trial was not sufficient for a criminal trial. Remember O.J. Simpson?
In her words to us Judge Anne Workman had stated "I advise you both to put everything that happened behind you. Don't do anything else that would leave you open to legal action."
Stalking laws were still fairly new everywhere at that time—in 1990 California passed the first stalking law in the U.S. It was not easy to get a stalking conviction in Georgia—there had, in fact, been very few of them. It was therefore standard for the prosecutor to file a Nolle Prosequi order. That meant that the state postponed prosecution on the stalking charges for six months on the condition that the stalker have no contact with the victim in any form. The charges are not dismissed or dropped—they are postponed. If the stalker keeps his nose clean for six months, the charges are dropped. Pines filed such an order on the stalking charge. The conditions of the order stated that Hillyard was to have no contact with me, including contact through the Internet.
Hillyard has found it impossible to obey Judge Workman's orders. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, Hillyard has thumbed his nose at the entire judicial system and continues to do so, and the courts and police are either powerless to stop him or refuse to use the resources they do have.
By 3:30pm the day of his trial a message was posted to atl.general stating that Hillyard had been declared "innocent" and was bringing suit against me, MindSpring Enterprises, Unsolved Mysteries, and NBC. The message was posted through the anonymous remailer at replay.com, the same remailer used for most of the prostitution ads posted during this campaign of harassment. Since then additional prostitution ads were forged in my name, and a highly offensive and libelous web site about me appeared briefly on GeoCities, where Hillyard maintained another website. (The website changed as soon as Pines complained to Hillyard's attorney—although Hillyard claims he had nothing to do with the site.) I've received addiitional mail from Dick Coward through anonymous remailers, and 17 more posts were made that day advertising me as a prostitute, as someone wanting sex partners, and claiming that "free sex pics" were available on my website.
Mr. Pines said that he was seriously considering reopening the stalking case due to the fact that the harassment continued since the trial—and, in fact, got much worse than it had been in the few months just proceeding it. Unfortunately, he simply did not have the resources to pursue the case. The nolle prosequi order expired in early 1998. Pines examined this website before I released it in 1997, and recommended that I go ahead and publish the information contained in it.
It was not possible to get a conviction on the stalking charge in 1997 simply because law enforcement hadn't caught up with technology. At least I know that I helped make it easier for the next stalker's target to find some justice. That has to be enough. While I'd prefer to have seen Hillyard convicted and behind bars, the fact is that it is very difficult to get any stalking conviction in Georgia, and even if he had been convicted, the first offense is only a misdemeanor—hardly worth the notice of a repeat offender with multiple felony convictions. In the meantime, though, he's spent a lot of time, a lot of money in legal fees, and has lost at least one job because of the investigation—and a lot more people know what he really is.
Roberts told a reporter that even if Hillyard did everything of which he has been accused, none of it is illegal. He is absolutely wrong, and I'm sure he's aware of the fact. Stalking, harassment, defamation and libel are very definitely illegal. Perhaps forging messages on the Internet and soliciting unwanted sexual advances for someone else are not yet illegal, but they are highly unethical. And any adult who has sexually explicit communications with children quickly finds that his actions are very definitely criminal.
I was repeatedly told that I had far more than enough evidence to get damages awarded in a civil court, but I did not go to any great lengths to find a lawyer to do so. From the beginning, I have simply wanted this man to go away and stop harassing us. I want all traces of his disgusting ads removed from the net, and I want him to never contact or us or publish anything about us again. Those posts have caused damage to my professional reputation as well as personal pain. The threats gave me and my child the feeling that we had to be constantly be on guard. I have and had a rich and full life, and while the Internet is important to me professionally and socially I regard it as a tool—not something to live and die by.
*While we received many more phone calls until after our third move, the other calls could only be traced to payphones and similar sources, and therefore could not be prosecuted. The harassing phone calls prosecution was only for the calls traced to Hillyard's home number.