A Baton Rouge man who was barred from an Internet chat room has been arrested on
charges of making death threats against a Kenner man who monitors the site,
Dwayne McGrath, 30, was booked with cyberstalking, stalking and communicating of false information of planned arson, Kenner police Capt. James Gallagher said. The first two charges are misdemeanors. The false information charge is a felony that carries a prison term of up to 20 years' hard labor, Gallagher said.
Loosely defined, cyberstalking is on-line harassment or using electronic communications to threaten bodily harm or damage to someone's property. In 1999, the U.S. Justice Department described cyberstalking as "a serious -- and growing -- problem" that has prompted politicians to pass laws to fight it.
"It's absolutely becoming more common," said James Piker, who heads the Louisiana attorney general's high-tech crime unit. Without face-to-face contact with victims, Piker said, cyberstalkers' inhibitions break down, and they feel shielded from consequences by a perceived anonymity at their keyboards.
The target of McGrath's threats, an unidentified Kenner man, is a volunteer for the Internet site NOLA.com and monitors a chat room there for inappropriate behavior by users, police reports show. NOLA.com is affiliated with The Times-Picayune.
McGrath had been barred by NOLA.com from the chat room for allegedly making threats against several users, police and a NOLA.com official said Even after that, McGrath posted a number of death threats on the site against the man in October, and wrote that he would set the man and the man's wife on fire, police said. In an e-mail, McGrath also told the man that he had followed the couple to a meeting and described the vehicles they drive, police said. Gallagher said McGrath also was seen in the man's neighborhood.
The man reported the threats to police.
McGrath, a pizza delivery man, was arrested Sunday at his home by Baton Rouge police, after Kenner police obtained a warrant for his arrest. He is being held at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna in lieu of $165,000 bond.
Gallagher said that although McGrath was sending the threats from his home computer, he was booked in Kenner because that's where the victim lives. Police also seized his computer.