Flamers

Former Internet America exec Robert Maynard must pay $75,000 to the man he accused of stalking his family

The voice on the answering machine was unmistakable: "This is Kevin Massey, aka 'Cyberstalker.'

"Just to let you know, I won a $75,000 judgment against Maynard yesterday in court...Just to let you know who's the loudmouth who was right. Have a good day."

The Maynard in question is Robert Maynard, ex-CEO of Internet America, a Dallas-based Internet service provider with more than 40,000 local customers. In late 1996, Maynard made national news claiming that Massey was stalking him and his family over the Internet.

Hardly anyone bothered to check out even the most fundamental aspects of the story, which died with the discovery that Massey and Maynard's employees had been trading insults on line, and that Maynard had used the occasion to launch a helluva publicity stunt (see the Dallas Observer cover story "Cyberbunk," November 21, 1996).

The fates haven't been very good to Maynard in the year and a half since.
In March 1997, Maynard resigned his post at Internet America after losing the support of its board of directors.

The next month, the 35-year-old Maynard settled a Federal Trade Commission complaint alleging he engaged in fraud and deceptive practices at a credit-repair business in Arizona. The FTC accused Maynard and other company officials of deceiving television viewers with an infomercial for the company that appeared to be a live call-in show but in fact was a paid advertisement. His wife was among those who posed as happy customers.

In his most recent set-back, state District Judge Gary Hall ruled last week that Maynard "made untrue allegations against [Massey] which constitute defamation."

In the uncontested case, the judge awarded Massey $50,000 in actual damages and $25,000 in punitive damages.

Massey, who goes by the online handle "Mackdaddy," wasted no time trumpeting his victory on the Net, which isn't surprising given his penchant for cyber-blather.

"The Mighty Mackdaddy prevailed just as he said he would back in 1996 when the con artist, liar, spin doctor...claimed he was being stalked by the Mackdaddy. The truth did prevail and Maynard is a scumbag as proven in court."

Massey also claimed that Internet America, which was also party to the suit, settled with him for "an undisclosed amount of money" earlier this year. Internet America's lawyer, Robert LeMay, would only comment that "Massey hasn't been paid anything yet."

Massey, in an interview, declined to be specific, but said that settlement was "less significant" to him than the Maynard judgment. "We let them off easy," he said.

Maynard, whose attorney withdrew last summer and who failed to appear in court to defend himself, declined comment. In line with his constant promotion of the medium, he referred to an Internet posting from last Thursday in which he asserted that "we all agreed to let the whole thing die," and that the case was "supposed to be thrown out on Monday [March 30] because of a lack of interest. Evidently since we said we wouldn't oppose the dismissal, Kevin got his lawyer to show up and pull a fast one."

Massey's lawyer, Stuart Glass, disputed that version of events and said the last time an attorney for Maynard made an appearance in the case was last summer, when Maynard's lawyer entered his motion to withdraw.

The version of events in 1996 that the judge accepted was far different than those put forward by Maynard in court and in a press release that was picked up by newspapers and TV stations and repeated worldwide.

"His first round out of the gate was to accuse my wife of sleeping with our employees like it was some kind of corporate benefit," Maynard told reporters at the time. "He accused her of having plastic surgery, breast surgery. If this happened to you, nobody would really believe it, but you quickly become an object of ridicule."

Maynard told the press he feared for his family's safety, and briefly sent his wife and kids out of town. State District Judge Joe Brown granted the Maynards a temporary restraining order in October 1996, which broke legal ground by barring someone from using the Internet to transmit certain types of speech.

When Massey's side of the story began to emerge, the couple quickly dropped their restraining order, but vowed to continue to press a civil suit accusing Massey of defamation and infliction of emotional distress.

In his countersuit, Massey claimed that an employee of Internet America was the first to use profanity in what became a series of insulting exchanges beginning in July 1996 in several Dallas newsgroups--electronic bulletin boards where written messages are posted.

In a message posted during normal business hours, the Internet America employee told Massey: "You ought to have your testicles embedded in a fire ant colony." Other messages directed at Massey insulted his wife and hinted at violence.

"I have a blackbelt in Glock," one Internet America tech wrote Massey. "Kicking the shit outta you Mackdaddy would be fun, but then again prolly a bore."

As the "flame war" grew, Maynard himself posted a message saying that Massey "has a long criminal record including aggravated assault, robbery, and burglary just in Dallas County."

Massey was convicted of burglary, but his attorney argued that falsely accusing him of violent offenses such as aggravated assault and robbery amounted to defamation.

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