The alleged online bully didn’t stop with the social media accounts, which included Facebook and Google+. The sisters did a simple search of their names and “were shocked to find numerous places where photos of themselves had been posted to adult photo-sharing websites,” the charges against Hoehne say.
Anchorage Police Department investigator tracked the man through IP addresses, which identify how computers are communicating over a network, and emails. All digital evidence trails led to the disgruntled roommate, a man who allegedly had an unhealthy sexual fixation involving the victim.
Charges filed on New Year’s Eve detail the high-speed Internet chase that started in late August, when the victim told police that Hoehne had downloaded photos of her, some nude, from her computer without permission and used them to make the fake accounts. She said Hoehne also posted ads claiming she was an escort or prostitute and “enjoyed different explicit sex acts with strangers,” the charges say. She said her sister suffered similar online harassment.
Cyberbullying among adults: Rare or underreported?
What the victim experienced is hard to define. She was harassed online. Her reputation is in question. It’s a type of cyberbullying taken to the extreme.
Alaska law protects against criminals intent on harassing or annoying another person, according to the harassment statute’s language. One section of the law says the criminal charge is applicable if a person “makes an anonymous or obscene telephone call, an obscene electronic communication, or a telephone call or electronic communication that threatens physical injury or sexual contact.” A crime has been committed if someone “publishes or distributes electronic or printed photographs, pictures, or films that show the genitals, anus, or female breast of the other person or show that person engaged in a sexual act.”
But data collected on cyberbullying focuses on middle and high school students, an age when many teens start to define themselves and establish their digital identities. One of the leading entities gathering such data is the Cyberbullying Research Center. According to a summary of its research from 2004-2013, 24 percent of middle and high school students have been a victim of the online form of bullying, generally defined as someone sending electronic messages in an intimidating or threatening manner.
The center’s site offers advice for adults who fall victim to cyberbullying but no statistics. Among the tips: don’t retaliate in a similar fashion, contact law enforcement and get an attorney.
Another organization that fights online harassment through education is WHO@, Working to Halt Online Abuse. The organization started in 1997, when online chat rooms and instant messengers were growing in popularity.
Still, it doesn’t track cases of adult cyberbullying. Instead, it collects cyberstalking statistics, online harassment that may include sending threatening emails. It found that 36 percent of cyberstalking victims are 18-30 years old, 38 percent are 30-40 years old and 26 percent are 41 or older. And 80 percent of those victims are female; 63 percent of the victims had a prior relationship with their harasser, according to the group’s data.
Co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center Jonathan Patchin told the Washington Post in October that adult harassment occurs far more often than people realize. It’s visible in vile comments on sites like Twitter and comment threads under online news articles, he said.
Hundreds of images, hundreds of charges
Hoehne and the victim lived together for a few years. That’s until summer 2011, when the two allegedly fell out when she confronted Hoehne and his family about numerous pieces of underwear she found hidden in his bed, the charges say.
She moved out shortly after the fight and has had very little contact with him since, the woman told police.
But in August, the woman’s sister brought the fake Facebook accounts to her attention. The page shared posts of nude photos, some of herself that’d been stolen from her computer. She later described her former roommate as computer savvy and said when they lived together, she asked Hoehne to do some work on her computer. The victim also said Hoehne was aware of the photos but did not have permission to view, let alone share the pictures.
The sister quickly deleted her Facebook account after its discovery but Hoehne’s former roommate left hers open. After finding more sites and more photos — some of the sisters’ faces superimposed over other women having sex, with captions like “a couple of craigslist dates,” “working the bars in downtown Anchorage” and “(victims’ first and last name) likes to let people watch” — she went to police.
All the investigator had to do to call up the pictures was Google the sisters’ names, the charges say. Adding variations of “Alaska” and “Anchorage” got numerous hits on them.
A look at the fake Google+ account found references to the victim’s family and personal life, details only Hoehne would be aware of, the charges say.
Search warrants from multiple accounts were granted, and the officer connected the profiles to Hoehne’s personal emails, which also allegedly had stored photos of the sisters. All together, the officer documented 372 separate posts that actually were the victim or purported to be one of the sisters.
Hoehne faces two charges, the first of which is actually a second-degree theft charge. He has been accused of holding onto the victim’s clothing, jewelry and underwear, as well as a handheld camcorder, valued together at $2,000. It’s alleged he refuses to give it back. The theft charge is a felony.
The 371 harassment counts stem from the hundreds of lewd images posted online, and they are misdemeanors.
Hoehne is in custody in Anchorage on $10,000 bail.