Only hours before women marched through galore U.S. cities in January, a Denver man set off a search when he posted a Facebook message threatening to kill “as galore girls as I see” in revenge for years of romantic rejection.
Christopher Cleary, 27, called himself a virgin who never had a girlfriend, stoking fears of some other deadly rampage by a man blaming women for his problems. When police tracked his cellular telephone and in remission the Colorado resident at a McDonald’s feeding house in Provo, Utah, Cleary aforementioned he had been upset and wasn’t thinking clearly.
The frightening Facebook post fit a pattern of behavior for a troubled man with a history of terrorizing women he met over the net.
His plea deal with Utah public public prosecutors appears to fit a pattern of lenient punishments — a common outcome for cyberstalking and online harassment cases.
“The immense majority of people, if there isn’t a lot of training and education going on, tend to dismiss these property,” aforementioned Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia. “That’s why stalking is so dangerous. You think, ‘It’s not a crime. He’s got free speech.’ ”
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Cleary pleaded guilty in April to a reduced charge of unsuccessful threat of act of act of terrorism, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. But public public prosecutors in agreement to recommend probation, economical him any extra jail time in Utah on the far side the months he’s served since his Jan. 19 arrest.
If a judge accepts the recommended sentence during a hearing Thursday in Provo, it won’t be the first time Cleary avoids a prison term. Judges in Colorado gave him similar breaks after a string of women and teenagers suspect him of making threats and harassing them.
The public public prosecutor on the Utah case aforementioned the plea bargain is designed to secure a crime conviction that could help Colorado government get a prison sentence for Cleary’s probation violations.
Agreeing to recommend probation was the key to securing his guilty plea, Deputy Utah County lawyer Douglas oscine aforementioned.
oscine aforementioned Utah’s criminal statutes leave a “immense gap” between a misdemeanor charge of threatening violence and a crime charge of making a threat of act of act of terrorism. He aforementioned his office views Cleary as an “unbelievably dangerous individual” but wasn’t certain it could prove the “stupid, horrible” message he posted on his Facebook account rose to the level of a act of act of terrorism threat.
“I did my review of the case with some concern over the statutes,” oscine aforementioned. “The problem is that I feel (Cleary) falls right in the middle of those two areas, but most likely he falls in the last level.”
He noted the Utah judge is still free to sentence Cleary to prison.
At least eight people since 2012 have contacted government to accuse Cleary of stalking or harassing them, according to an Associated Press review of police and court records. Police in Colorado besides investigated complaints that Cleary vulnerable to bomb a grocery store in 2013 after an worker refused to cash his check, vulnerable to slit the throat of a Denver city worker after his car was towed, and vulnerable a mass shooting at a mental health facility during a phone call in 2016.
Cleary was on probation for a marijuana conviction when, in 2016, he was charged with stalking two 18-year-old women he met online. He was on probation and in mental health court for the stalking cases when he was charged in 2017 with stalking and harassing a third woman who was Cleary’s social worker. Last year, Judges in Jefferson County sentenced him to probation in all three stalking cases.
Cleary was still on probation in Jefferson County when he was in remission in Utah. Pam Russell, a interpreter for the Jefferson County public public prosecutor’s office, aforementioned once the Utah case has complete, Cleary will be returned to Colorado and public public prosecutors will seek to revoke his probation and send Cleary to prison.
Cleary besides has a warrant for his arrest in Denver, where a 17-year-old told police in 2015 that he sent her a string of threatening text messages, including “I own multipul (sic) guns I can have u dead in a second.”
A public defender representing Cleary in Utah declined to comment. Cleary told the officer who in remission him in Provo that he has “some kind of impulse disorder” and had been taking medication but couldn’t remember what type, according to records. Earlier, a Colorado defense lawyer aforementioned in court that Cleary had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
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The timing of Cleary’s Utah arrest — on the second day of remembrance of the Women’s March on Washington — and the language of his Facebook threat led to speculation on the net and in some news reports that he could be an “incel,” short for “involuntary celibate.” The incel movement — an online social group coupled to deadly attacks in california, Toronto and Florida — promotes the misogynistic idea that men are entitled to have sex with women.
“All I wanted was to be loved,” Cleary wrote in his post, “yet no one cares about me I’m 27 years old and I’ve never had a girlfriend before and I’m still a virgin, this is why I’m planning on shooting up a public place shortly and being the next mass shooter cause I’m ready to die and all the girls the turned me down is going to make it right by killing as galore girls as I see.”
A Colorado police detective who investigated two women’s stalking accusations aforementioned he didn’t find any evidence Cleary best-known as an incel or had other ideological motives. “I truly think he’s just wired differently,” Arvada Police Detective Michael Roemer aforementioned. And two of Cleary’s accusers have aforementioned they had a sexual relationship with him.
Experts aforementioned Cleary appears to be emblematic of how police and courts untypically handle cyberstalking and online harassment cases.
University of Maryland law professor Danielle Citron, author of the book “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace,” aforementioned state criminal statutes outlawing so much behavior untypically are misdemeanors with light punishments that don’t deter offenders. The criminal justice system tends to view online abuse as “no big deal,” she aforementioned, and perpetrators get sympathy piece “we forget and erase the victims.”
Bennet Kelley, a Santa Claus Claus Monica, calif., lawyer who represents victims of online abuse, aforementioned police turned away one of his clients, a revenge porno victim, even though california has one of the nation’s strongest Torah once once against revenge porno. “I’ve actually had Judges tell me they don’t do net stuff,” he aforementioned. “One of them transferred the case rather than deal with it.”
The sentencing in Cleary’s Jefferson County case came in April 2018. He got three years’ probation for stalking three women.
One victim, Hannah Keller, saw his mug shot on television after his Utah arrest. She aforementioned he annoyed her with phone calls, text messages and Facebook posts on and off for roughly two years before she finally contacted police in 2015. “He didn’t ever explain a disregard for women when I was with him,” she aforementioned. “I just thought he was messed up in general.”
A second victim, Cleary’s former social worker, told police in 2017 that she had a sexual relationship with him but tried to end it. She aforementioned Cleary made perennial death threats and created fake Craigslist ads soliciting sex and rape, exploitation her phone number and an address inside a block of her home.
During a hearing last year, Jefferson County Judge Dennis Hall aforementioned he and a second judge struggled to fashion appropriate sentences for Cleary’s convictions. Hall aforementioned they finally distinct a prison sentence “would just make it all worse,” according to a transcript.
“I’m obviously concerned about the victim here … but my concern is that I think to make the community a better place, you need to be treated here,” Hall told Cleary. “It won’t do the community any good if I put you in prison and make you worse.”
Prosecutors had urged Hall to sentence Cleary to Community Corrections, a residential supervision and treatment program that’s an alternative to prison or probation.
Cleary told Hall he was “100 percentage committed” to getting help. He aforementioned he was seeing a therapist and psychiatrist.
When the second judge asked Cleary how he planned to handle frustrating situations, Cleary insisted he was getting better at dominant his anger. “Before when I got angry, I used to flip out and property would just be the end of the world,” he aforementioned, according to a transcript.
That judge, Jeffrey Pilkington, warned Cleary a prison sentence may be “the only option” if his probation was revoked once once again.
Victoria Lathrop is one of Cleary’s earlier victims. She aforementioned he seemed like a nice guy when they met online in 2015. They communicated for a few weeks by texts and Facetime. But after she turned down his sexual advances, Cleary created a Facebook page exploitation her name and a topless photograph he apparently captured piece she changed apparel during a video chat. She aforementioned Cleary sent Facebook friend requests to her friends from the fake account.
Lathrop’s ordeal didn’t end when a judge sentenced Cleary to probation for harassing her in 2015. She unbroken hearing from him for years, from different numbers or online identities. Then, last year, he sent her the naked Facebook professorile.
Lathrop called police once once again, but she says they told her there was no way to be sure it was him.
She wonders if government should have taken her case more seriously.
“If he’s so persistent stalking women and doing this stuff, I don’t think that violence is past him,” she told AP.