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Thursday, July 29, 2004 - Page updated at 05:01 P.M.

Man charged under Internet stalking law pleads guilty

By The Associated Press

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SEATTLE — A man believed to be the first prosecuted under a federal Internet stalking law pleaded guilty today, acknowledging he harassed his ex-girlfriend and her co-workers by sending them unwanted e-mails.

James Robert Murphy, 38, of Columbia, S.C., admitted sending dozens of e-mails and faxes to Seattle city employee Joelle Ligon, who broke up with him 14 years ago.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the harassment included making it appear that she was sending pornographic material to her colleagues.

Murphy was arrested in April and charged under a 1997 federal law that equates sending obscene e-mails with making obscene phone calls. Prosecutors said they believe he was the first person prosecuted federally for cyber harassment, defined as using the Internet with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass.

He could have faced two years in prison and a fine of $250,000, but prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of three to five years on probation when Murphy is sentenced Oct. 29. A judge is also expected to order Murphy to pay restitution in an amount to be determined.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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