Cyberbunk

Kevin Massey is no 'cyberstalker.' But when he tangled with another bullheaded loudmouth on the Internet, their 'flame' war spawned a great publicity stunt.

In an e-mail message to Massey that followed, however, Maynard complained that that apology wasn't good enough. He took issue with the precise wording of the apology to his wife, and went on to complain about some fairly interesting things that Massey had not taken back.

"You did not retract your statements about Compu-tek's being 1,000 times more reliable" than Internet America, Maynard wrote. "You did not retract your statements about our company being a scam. You did not directly retract your statement about me being a liar and a con man."

By any reading, these hardly seem the thoughts of someone battling a mysterious stranger who put him in fear of his children's safety.

Still, as the story broke, Maynard told WFAA-TV Channel 8 that an unknown stalker threatened him with "obtuse" references to violence. "I'm frustrated that I have to hire private security; that I have to worry about whether my kids, playing across the street, if they're gonna be safe," Maynard said in the broadcast report. In a four-page press release, Maynard sanctimoniously declared he was taking action on behalf of everyone who wants to "make cyberspace safer."

The supposedly threatening language Massey used in his dfw.internet.providers posts was ambiguous, to say the least. Massey had the habit of concluding some of his missives with a signature line he copied out of a gun-nut newsgroup: "Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to hide the bodies of the people I had to kill because they pissed me off." It's a perversion of the Serenity Prayer, popular in 12-step programs, and appears to have been penned by a right-winger in Montana.

Maynard says he had other information that caused him to worry. "Massey's a bully with a long history of this kind of behavior on the Net," Maynard says.

Maynard had discovered that an amateur computer network known as the Fido-Net had kicked Massey off its system in April. Massey had used the handle "Kevin Parrish"--using his wife's previous last name. An Internet America employee who had posted some flame notes to Massey had connected the Mackdaddy and Parrish monikers with each other in mid-August.

With that lead, Maynard's investigators contacted John Summers, a 52-year-old communications consultant who had traded messages with Kevin Parrish on the Fido-Net beginning about a year and half ago.

Summers, talking to the Observer, says he was subjected to a "flurry of vulgar, junior-high-school insults" that Massey unleashed on the network.

"He threatened to kill and shoot me, and I took it as a distinct threat," Summers says. "I told him, 'Come on, I'm gonna be here on such and such a day. Go ahead.'"

Massey showed up at the appointed place--a pizza party for Fido-Net enthusiasts--and introduced himself, Summers recalls. "He backed down like a small child that shuts up once he's confronted."

Massey also remembers the meeting. "Oh. That old fuck," he recalls. "Yeah, we shook hands, sat down across from each other, and ate pizza. How does that make me dangerous?"

If Maynard were conducting the whole exercise as a public relations gimmick in which he would emerge as the guy who cleaned the streets of Dodge City, Massey might have appeared to be the perfect foil: the loudmouth bully who, when confronted, would back down. Maynard is "a great spin doctor," says one recently laid off Internet America employee. "I wouldn't put anything past him."

But Massey was madder this time.
In the e-mail exchange with Maynard, Massey brought up his own complaints about the way Internet America had treated him.

Around the time that insults were flying between Massey and some of Maynard's employees because of Massey's remarks about the CEO's wife, Massey says, somebody sent him several virus-laden files. The files would have destroyed his computer's programming had Massey downloaded them. Massey had seen the "spoofed"--meaning faked--return address, eatme@AIRMAIL.NET, ON THE FILES BEFORE. "AIRMAIL" IS THE ADDRESS FOR INTERNET AMERICA.

"IT IS NOT DIFFICULT TO DETERMINE THAT THOSE FILES CAME THROUGH THEIR SYSTEM," SAYS STUART GLASS, MASSEY'S ATTORNEY, REFERRING TO INTERNET AMERICA. "IT IS A LOT MORE DIFFICULT TO PROVE--AND WE ARE NOT SAYING--THAT THEY WERE SENT BY ONE OF THEIR PEOPLE."

WITHOUT ANYONE IN COURT TO CONTEST HIS MYTH OF A CYBERSTALKER, MAYNARD SECURED A BROADLY WORDED TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER ON OCTOBER 14 FROM STATE DISTRICT JUDGE JOE B. BROWN. IT ALL BUT BANNED MASSEY FROM POSTING ANYTHING VULGAR OR THREATENING REGARDING THE MAYNARDS, AND FROM COMING WITHIN 500 YARDS OF THEIR HOME OR OFFICE.

THAT SAME DAY, MAYNARD POSTED THE ORDER ON THE NET.
THE LAST TIME THE WORD "CYBERSTALKER" WAS UTTERED SO MUCH IN THE NEWS IN DALLAS, MAYNARD WAS POSTING SOMETHING ELSE IN THE MEDIUM ON WHICH HE IS BUILDING HIS COMPANY. IT WAS THE ENTIRE 96 MINUTES OF A LOCALLY PRODUCED B-MOVIE THAT HAD BEEN SHOWN AT THE USA FILM FESTIVAL IN 1995. THE TITLEo Cyberstalker.

There is another party to all this, one that has played an important and completely unreported role. It's Compu-tek, the small Internet service provider that lets Massey hook up to the global system. The company was pulled into the fray when Maynard's lawyers subpoenaed its records in search of Massey's address, among other things, after Maynard filed his lawsuit. After going over Massey's transmissions with a Compu-tek lawyer, Compu-tek operations manager John Haynes had no reservations about his decision to allow Massey to remain on line. "If Kevin was saying, 'I'm gonna kill you, Robert Maynard,' we would have stepped in," Haynes says. "I can tell you that nothing like that was going on."

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