Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy
Showing posts with label Crime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Crime. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

More than a quarter of U.S. adults say they’re so stressed they can’t function

American Psychological Association
Press Release
Originally posted 19 OCT 22

Americans are struggling with multiple external stressors that are out of their personal control, with 27% reporting that most days they are so stressed they cannot function, according to a poll conducted for the American Psychological Association.

A majority of adults cited inflation (83%), violence and crime (75%), the current political climate (66%), and the racial climate (62%) as significant sources of stress.

The nationwide survey, fielded by The Harris Poll on behalf of APA, revealed that 70% of adults reported they do not think people in the government care about them, and 64% said they felt their rights are under attack. Further, nearly half of adults (45%) said they do not feel protected by the laws in the United States. More than a third (38%) said the state of the nation has made them consider moving to a different country.

More than three-quarters of adults (76%) said that the future of our nation is a significant source of stress in their lives, while 68% said this is the lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember.

Various disparities in stressors emerged among population subgroups. For example, 72% of the members of the LGBTQIA+ community reported feeling as if their rights are under attack, which is a higher proportion than non-LGBTQIA+ adults (64%). Younger adult women (ages 18 to 34) were more likely to report that most days their stress is completely overwhelming, in comparison with older women (62% vs. 48% 35–44; 27% 45–64; 9% 65+) and men ages 35 or older (62% vs. 48% 35–44; 21% 45–64; 8% 65+). Seventy-five percent of Black adults said that the racial climate in the U.S. is a significant source of stress, while 70% of Latino/a adults, 69% of Asian adults and 56% of white adults reported the same.

Furthermore, Latinas were most likely, among racial/ethnic groups, to cite significant sources of stress related to violence, including violence and crime (89% Latinas; 80% Black women; 79% Asian women; 77% Latinos; 75% Black men; 73% white women; 72% white men; 70% Asian men), mass shootings (89% Latinas; 78% Latinos; 77% Black women; 77% Asian women; 73% white women; 71% Black men; 67% Asian men; 66% white men) and gun violence (87% Latinas; 83% Black women; 77% Asian women; 76% Latinos; 75% Black men; 69% white women; 68% white men; 63% Asian men).

“It’s clear that the impacts of uncontrollable stressors are profound for most Americans, but psychological science shows us that there are effective ways to talk about and cope with this type of stress,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer. “Focusing on accomplishing goals that are in our control can help prevent our minds from getting overwhelmed by the many uncertainties in life. From using our breathing to slow racing thoughts, to intentionally limiting our social media consumption, or exercising our right to vote, action can be extremely empowering.”

Adults reported that stress has had an impact on their health; 76% of adults reported they had experienced at least one symptom in the last month as a result of stress—such as headache (38%), fatigue (35%), feeling nervous or anxious (34%) and feeling depressed or sad (33%). Seven in 10 adults (72%) experienced additional symptoms in the last month, including feeling overwhelmed (33%), experiencing changes in sleeping habits (32%), and/or worrying constantly (30%).

Saturday, September 24, 2022

A community response approach to mental health and substance abuse crises reduced crime

T. S. Dee and J. Pyne
Science Advances, 8 Jun 2022
Vol 8, Issue 23


Police officers often serve as first responders to mental health and substance abuse crises. Concerns over the unintended consequences and high costs associated with this approach have motivated emergency response models that augment or completely remove police involvement. However, there is little causal evidence evaluating these programs. This preregistered study presents quasi-experimental evidence on the impact of an innovative “community response” pilot in Denver that directed targeted emergency calls to health care responders instead of the police. We find robust evidence that the program reduced reports of targeted, less serious crimes (e.g., trespassing, public disorder, and resisting arrest) by 34% and had no detectable effect on more serious crimes. The sharp reduction in targeted crimes reflects the fact that health-focused first responders are less likely to report individuals they serve as criminal offenders and the spillover benefits of the program (e.g., reducing crime during hours when the program was not in operation).

From the Discussion Section

The evidence in this study indicates that the STAR community response program was effective in reducing police-reported criminal offenses (i.e., both reducing the designation of individuals in crisis as criminal offenders and reducing the actual level of crime). These results provide a compelling motivation for the continued implementation and assessment of this approach. However, successfully replicating the STAR program is likely to rely on key implementation details such as the recruitment and training of dispatchers and mental health field staff as well as the successful coordination of their activities with the police. Furthermore, the generalizability of the community response approach to a broader set of potentially preventable charges is uncertain and a design feature worthy of further study. There are also additional details about programs such as STAR that merit further investigation and clarification. For example, we are unsure of whether the existence of STAR may have increased the trust and the willingness of community members to call 911. However, we note that such an effect is likely to imply that our estimates underestimate the true effect of the STAR program. That is because increase in trust and willingness to call 911 is likely to increase measured crime in the short run as some of these calls would result in police engagement regardless of arrest status. Future studies may also consider the effects of programs like STAR on health-related outcomes, such as access to health services (e.g., counseling and therapy) and related measures of well-being.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

A study gave cash and therapy to men at risk of criminal behavior

Sigal Samuel 
Originally posted 31 MAY 22

Here is an excerpt:

Inspired by the program in Liberia, Chicago has been implementing a similar but more intensive program called READI. Over the course of 18 months, men in the city’s most violent districts participate in therapy sessions in the morning, followed by job training in the afternoon. The rationale for the latter is that in a place with a well-developed labor market like Chicago, the best way to improve earnings is probably to get people into the market, whereas in Liberia, the labor market is much less efficient, so it made more sense to offer people cash.

“We’ll have more results this summer,” said Blattman of the READI program, which he is helping to advise. So far, “it doesn’t look like a slam dunk.”

Still, Chicago is eager to try these therapy-based approaches, having already had some success with them. The city is also home to a program called Becoming a Man (BAM), where high schoolers do CBT-inspired group sessions. A randomized controlled trial showed that criminal arrests fell by about half during the BAM program. Even though effects dissipated over time, the program looks to be very cost-effective.

But this isn’t just a story about the growing recognition that therapy can play a useful role in preventing crime. That trend is part of a broader movement to adopt an approach to crime that is more carrot, less stick.

“It’s all about a progressive, rational policy for social control. Social inclusion is the most productive means of social control,” David Brotherton, a sociologist at the City University of New York, explained to me in 2019.

Brotherton has long argued that mainstream US policy is counterproductively coercive and punitive. His research has shown that helping at-risk people reintegrate into mainstream society — including by offering them cash — is much more effective at reducing violence.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Social Networking and Ethics

Vallor, Shannon
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 
(Fall 2021 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

Here is an excerpt:

Contemporary Ethical Concerns about Social Networking Services

While early SNS scholarship in the social and natural sciences tended to focus on SNS impact on users’ psychosocial markers of happiness, well-being, psychosocial adjustment, social capital, or feelings of life satisfaction, philosophical concerns about social networking and ethics have generally centered on topics less amenable to empirical measurement (e.g., privacy, identity, friendship, the good life and democratic freedom). More so than ‘social capital’ or feelings of ‘life satisfaction,’ these topics are closely tied to traditional concerns of ethical theory (e.g., virtues, rights, duties, motivations and consequences). These topics are also tightly linked to the novel features and distinctive functionalities of SNS, more so than some other issues of interest in computer and information ethics that relate to more general Internet functionalities (for example, issues of copyright and intellectual property).

Despite the methodological challenges of applying philosophical theory to rapidly shifting empirical patterns of SNS influence, philosophical explorations of the ethics of SNS have continued in recent years to move away from Borgmann and Dreyfus’ transcendental-existential concerns about the Internet, to the empirically-driven space of applied technology ethics. Research in this space explores three interlinked and loosely overlapping kinds of ethical phenomena:
  • direct ethical impacts of social networking activity itself (just or unjust, harmful or beneficial) on participants as well as third parties and institutions;
  • indirect ethical impacts on society of social networking activity, caused by the aggregate behavior of users, platform providers and/or their agents in complex interactions between these and other social actors and forces;
  • structural impacts of SNS on the ethical shape of society, especially those driven by the dominant surveillant and extractivist value orientations that sustain social networking platforms and culture.
Most research in the field, however, remains topic- and domain-driven—exploring a given potential harm or domain-specific ethical dilemma that arises from direct, indirect, or structural effects of SNS, or more often, in combination. Sections 3.1–3.5 outline the most widely discussed of contemporary SNS’ ethical challenges.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Why do inequality and deprivation produce high crime and low trust?

De Courson, B., Nettle, D. 
Sci Rep 11, 1937 (2021). 


Humans sometimes cooperate to mutual advantage, and sometimes exploit one another. In industrialised societies, the prevalence of exploitation, in the form of crime, is related to the distribution of economic resources: more unequal societies tend to have higher crime, as well as lower social trust. We created a model of cooperation and exploitation to explore why this should be. Distinctively, our model features a desperation threshold, a level of resources below which it is extremely damaging to fall. Agents do not belong to fixed types, but condition their behaviour on their current resource level and the behaviour in the population around them. We show that the optimal action for individuals who are close to the desperation threshold is to exploit others. This remains true even in the presence of severe and probable punishment for exploitation, since successful exploitation is the quickest route out of desperation, whereas being punished does not make already desperate states much worse. Simulated populations with a sufficiently unequal distribution of resources rapidly evolve an equilibrium of low trust and zero cooperation: desperate individuals try to exploit, and non-desperate individuals avoid interaction altogether. Making the distribution of resources more equal or increasing social mobility is generally effective in producing a high cooperation, high trust equilibrium; increasing punishment severity is not.

From the Discussion

Within criminology, our prediction of risky exploitative behaviour when in danger of falling below a threshold of desperation is reminiscent of Merton’s strain theory of deviance. Under this theory, deviance results when individuals have a goal (remaining constantly above the threshold of participation in society), but the available legitimate means are insufficient to get them there (neither foraging alone nor cooperation has a large enough one-time payoff). They thus turn to risky alternatives, despite the drawbacks of these (see also Ref.32 for similar arguments). This explanation is not reducible to desperation making individuals discount the future more steeply, which is often invoked as an explanation for criminality. Agents in our model do not face choices between smaller-sooner and larger-later rewards; the payoff for exploitation is immediate, whether successful or unsuccessful. Also note the philosophical differences between our approach and ‘self-control’ styles of explanation. Those approaches see offending as deficient decision-making: it would be in people’s interests not to offend, but some can’t manage it (see Ref.35 for a critical review). Like economic and behavioural-ecological theories of crime more generally, ours assumes instead that there are certain situations or states where offending is the best of a bad set of available options.

Friday, November 8, 2019

A Fake Psychologist Treated Troubled Children, Prosecutors Say

Fake Credentials on LinkedIn Page
Michal Gold
The New York Times
Originally published September 29, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

But Mr. Payne has no formal counseling training that prosecutors were aware of. He told investigators that he was a doctor with a “home-schooled, unconventional education during the Black Panther era,” according to court papers.

None of Mr. Payne’s patients had been hospitalized or physically harmed, an official said. Some of his patients liked him and his treatment methods.

But others became suspicious during therapy sessions. Mr. Payne would often talk about his own life and not ask patients about theirs, the official said. He would also repeat exercises and worksheets in some of his sessions with little explanation, giving patients the sense that he had run out of ideas to treat them.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Payne and Ms. Tobierre-Desir worked at three locations: his main office in a large building in Brooklyn Heights, a smaller building in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and the offices of a nonprofit based at Kings County Hospital Center, one of the hospitals with which Mr. Payne claimed to be affiliated.

Mr. Payne’s relationship with the nonprofit, the Kings Against Violence Initiative, was unclear. The group did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

The info is here.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Duke agrees to pay $112.5 million to settle allegation it fraudulently obtained federal research funding

Seth Thomas Gulledge
Triangle Business Journal
Originally posted March 25, 2019

Duke University has agreed to pay $112.5 million to settle a suit with the federal government over allegations the university submitted false research reports to receive federal research dollars.

This week, the university reached a settlement over allegations brought forward by whistleblower Joseph Thomas – a former Duke employee – who alleged that during his time working as a lab research analyst in the pulmonary, asthma and critical care division of Duke University Health Systems, the clinical research coordinator, Erin Potts-Kant, manipulated and falsified studies to receive grant funding.

The case also contends that the university and its office of research support, upon discovering the fraud, knowingly concealed it from the government.

According to court documents, Duke was accused of submitting claims to the National Institute of Health (NIH) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) between 2006-2018 that contained "false or fabricated data" cause the two agencies to pay out grant funds they "otherwise would not have." Those fraudulent submissions, the case claims, netted the university nearly $200 million in federal research funding.

“Taxpayers expect and deserve that federal grant dollars will be used efficiently and honestly. Individuals and institutions that receive research funding from the federal government must be scrupulous in conducting research for the common good and rigorous in rooting out fraud,” said Matthew Martin, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina in a statement announcing the settlement. “May this serve as a lesson that the use of false or fabricated data in grant applications or reports is completely unacceptable.”

The info is here.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Somers Point therapist charged with hiring hitman to 'permanently disfigure' victim

Lauren Carroll
The Press of Atlantic City
Originally posted November 6, 2018

A Somers Point therapist told an undercover FBI agent posing as a hitman she wanted her Massachusetts colleague’s “face bashed-in” and arm broken, according to a criminal complaint filed with the U.S Attorney’s Office.

Diane Sylvia, 58, has been charged with solicitation to commit a crime of violence and appeared in Camden federal court Monday.

According to the criminal complaint filed Friday, a person contacted the FBI to report a murder-for-hire scheme on Sept. 24.

The informant is a former member of an organization criminal gang and was in therapy with Sylvia, a licensed clinical social worker. Sylvia allegedly asked the informant to help kill a North Attleboro, Massachusetts, man, the complaint said.

Sylvia’s lawyer Michael Paulhus of Toms River could not be reached for comment. Sylvia could not be reached for comment.

According to the court documents, Sylvia targeted the man after he threatened to report her to a licensing board. She wanted the man assaulted to “make (her) feel better,” according to court documents.

The info is here.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Ethics watchdog files complaint alleging Trump lawyer's payment to Stormy Daniels violates law

Javier David
Originally published March 11, 2018

A $130,000 payment made by President Donald Trump's attorney to an adult film star should be probed as a financial obligation that the president "knowingly and willfully" failed to report, a watchdog has argued.

In a legal complaint filed late last week with the Department of Justice and the Office of Government Ethics, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) argued that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's payment to Stormy Daniels "constituted a loan to President Trump that he should have reported as a liability on his public financial disclosure."

The filing raised the question of whether, as a general election candidate, Trump deliberately failed to disclose it.

CREW's argument has been raised with increasing regularity by some legal experts, who say Cohen's surreptitious payment could be viewed as an illicit campaign contribution. The attorney disclosed recently that he used a home equity loan to arrange a payment to Daniels, buying her silence for an alleged affair she had with Trump more than a decade ago.

In CREW's judgement, Trump "seemingly violated a federal law by failing to disclose it" on his campaign filings. Experts have said that had Trump paid Daniels with his own money, the payment wouldn't be an issue since candidates can contribute to their own campaigns. Yet since a disclosure wasn't made, there could be a violation.

The information is here.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Polluted Morality: Air Pollution Predicts Criminal Activity and Unethical Behavior

Jackson G. Lu, Julia J. Lee, Francesca Gino, Adam D. Galinsky
Psychological Science 
First Published February 7, 2018


Air pollution is a serious problem that affects billions of people globally. Although the environmental and health costs of air pollution are well known, the present research investigates its ethical costs. We propose that air pollution can increase criminal and unethical behavior by increasing anxiety. Analyses of a 9-year panel of 9,360 U.S. cities found that air pollution predicted six major categories of crime; these analyses accounted for a comprehensive set of control variables (e.g., city and year fixed effects, population, law enforcement) and survived various robustness checks (e.g., balanced panel, nonparametric bootstrapped standard errors). Three subsequent experiments involving American and Indian participants established the causal effect of psychologically experiencing a polluted (vs. clean) environment on unethical behavior. Consistent with our theoretical perspective, results revealed that anxiety mediated this effect. Air pollution not only corrupts people’s health, but also can contaminate their morality.

The research is here.

If you cannot get to the article, you can download it from here.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Robots, Law and the Retribution Gap

John Danaher
Ethics and Information Technology
December 2016, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 299–309

We are living through an era of increased robotisation. Some authors have already begun to explore the impact of this robotisation on legal rules and practice. In doing so, many highlight potential liability gaps that might arise through robot misbehaviour. Although these gaps are interesting and socially significant, they do not exhaust the possible gaps that might be created by increased robotisation. In this article, I make the case for one of those alternative gaps: the retribution gap. This gap arises from a mismatch between the human desire for retribution and the absence of appropriate subjects of retributive blame. I argue for the potential existence of this gap in an era of increased robotisation; suggest that it is much harder to plug this gap than it is to plug those thus far explored in the literature; and then highlight three important social implications of this gap.

From the Discussion Section

Third, and finally, I have argued that this retributive gap has three potentially significant social implications: (i) it could lead to an increased risk of moral scapegoating; (ii) it could erode confidence in the rule of law; and (iii) it could present a strategic opening for those who favour nonretributive approaches to crime and punishment.

The paper is here.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Trouble With Sex Robots

By Laura Bates
The New York Times
Originally posted

Here is an excerpt:

One of the authors of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics report, Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, England, said there are ethical arguments within the field about sex robots with “frigid” settings.

“The idea is robots would resist your sexual advances so that you could rape them,” Professor Sharkey said. “Some people say it’s better they rape robots than rape real people. There are other people saying this would just encourage rapists more.”

Like the argument that women-only train compartments are an answer to sexual harassment and assault, the notion that sex robots could reduce rape is deeply flawed. It suggests that male violence against women is innate and inevitable, and can be only mitigated, not prevented. This is not only insulting to a vast majority of men, but it also entirely shifts responsibility for dealing with these crimes onto their victims — women, and society at large — while creating impunity for perpetrators.

Rape is not an act of sexual passion. It is a violent crime. We should no more be encouraging rapists to find a supposedly safe outlet for it than we should facilitate murderers by giving them realistic, blood-spurting dummies to stab. Since that suggestion sounds ridiculous, why does the idea of providing sexual abusers with lifelike robotic victims sound feasible to some?

The article is here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Crime in the Cancer Lab

Theodora Ross
The New York Times
Originally published January 28, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

We have all read about incidents of scientific misconduct; in recent years, a number of manuscripts based on fake research have been retracted. But they usually involved scientists who cut corners or fabricated data, not deliberate sabotage. The poisoned flasks were a first for me. Falsified data is a crime against scientific truth. This was personal.

I turned to my colleagues to ask how to respond, and to my surprise, they all said the same thing: my student, Heather Ames, was probably sabotaging herself.

Their reasoning? She wanted an excuse for why things weren't working in her experiments. Competition and the pressure to get results quickly is ever-present in the world of biomedical research, so it's not out of the question that a young scientist might succumb to the stress.

The article is here.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Research suggests morality can survive without religion

By Brooks Hays
Originally posted January 13, 2016

Results from a longitudinal survey suggest morality hasn't declined with the decline of organized religion. The findings were published in the journal Politics and Religion.

"Religion has been in sharp decline in many European countries," study author Ingrid Storm, a researcher at Manchester University, said in a press release. "Each new generation is less religious than the one before, so I was interested to find out if there is any reason to expect moral decline."

Between 1981 to 2008, respondents from 48 European nations shared their attitudes toward a variety of moral and cultural transgressions.

In analyzing the responses, Storm differentiated between two types of moral offenses. The first category encompasses behavior that offends tradition or cultural norms, such as abortion or homosexuality. The second category includes crimes against the state and those harmful to others -- lying, cheating, stealing.

The article is here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Your health records are supposed to be private. They aren’t.

By Charles Ornstein
The Washington Post
December 30, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

In each story, a common theme emerged: HIPAA wasn’t working the way we expect. And the agency charged with enforcing it, the HHS office for civil rights, wasn’t taking aggressive action against those who violated the law.

We all know HIPAA, whether we recognize the acronym or not. It’s what requires us to stand behind a line, away from other customers, at the pharmacy counter or when checking in at the doctor’s office. It is the reason we get privacy declaration forms to sign whenever we visit a new medical provider. It is used to scare health-care workers, telling them that if they improperly disclose others’ information, they could pay a steep fine or even go to jail.

But in reality, it is a toothless tiger. Unless you’re famous, most hospitals and clinics don’t keep tabs on who looks at your records if you don’t complain. And even though the civil rights office can impose large fines, it rarely does: It received nearly 18,000 complaints in 2014 but took only six formal actions that year. A recent report from the HHS inspector general said the office wasn’t keeping track of repeat offenders, much less doing anything about them.

The story is here.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Mental health courts significantly reduce repeat offenses, jail time

Medical News Today
Originally published December 4, 2015

New research from North Carolina State University finds that mental health courts are effective at reducing repeat offending, and limiting related jail time, for people with mental health problems - especially those who also have substance use problems.

"Previous research has provided mixed data on how effective mental health courts are at reducing recidivism, or repeat offending, for people with mental health problems," says Sarah Desmarais, an associate professor of psychology at NC State and senior author of a paper on the research. "We wanted to evaluate why or how mental health courts may be effective, and whether there are specific characteristics that tell us which people are most likely to benefit from those courts. The goal here is to find ways to help people and drive down costs for state and local governments without impinging on public safety."

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms

By Jonathan M. Metzl, MD, PhD, and Kenneth T. MacLeish, PhD
American Journal of Public Health: February 2015, Vol. 105, No. 2, pp. 240-249.
doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302242


Four assumptions frequently arise in the aftermath of mass shootings in the United States: (1) that mental illness causes gun violence, (2) that psychiatric diagnosis can predict gun crime, (3) that shootings represent the deranged acts of mentally ill loners, and (4) that gun control “won’t prevent” another Newtown (Connecticut school mass shooting). Each of these statements is certainly true in particular instances. Yet, as we show, notions of mental illness that emerge in relation to mass shootings frequently reflect larger cultural stereotypes and anxieties about matters such as race/ethnicity, social class, and politics. These issues become obscured when mass shootings come to stand in for all gun crime, and when “mentally ill” ceases to be a medical designation and becomes a sign of violent threat.

The entire article is here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A worm in the heart

A whistleblower’s account of a small town municipality riddled with corruption

By Niki Moore
The Daily Maverick
Originally posted July 25, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

“Everyone in this municipality, everyone, is corrupt,” he said, in an extremely emotional telephone interview. “The word has spread through the town, and if you want services cheaply, or you want to have your debt scrubbed, you go and speak to someone in the council. Make a small payment, and you will get whatever you want.”

Council employees, says Mervyn, have become expert at diverting fees that should be paid to council, into their own pockets.

The entire story is here.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Modern slavery all around us, home secretary says

Slavery in the UK is widespread but new laws will help to eradicate it, the home secretary has said.

BBC News
Originally published November 24, 2013

Following claims that three women were held for 30 years, Theresa May said figures show the numbers of victims in the UK was up by 25% in the past year.

She told the Sunday Telegraph she had made tackling "this abhorrent crime" a "personal priority".

She outlined plans to strengthen anti-slavery laws and appoint a commissioner to hold relevant agencies to account.

Her comments come after three women were rescued last month from a house in south London having allegedly been held as slaves for at least 30 years.

One of the women, a 30-year-old, is thought to have never lived independently.

The entire story is here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Man gets 4 years for stalking on Facebook

USA Today/News

A California man who trolled women's Facebook pages searching for clues that allowed him to take over their email accounts was sentenced Friday to more than four years in state prison after a judge rejected a plea for a lighter sentence and likened the man to a peeping Tom.

Once he took over women's email accounts, George Bronk searched their folders for nude or semi-nude photographs or videos sent to their husbands or boyfriends and distributed the images to their contact list, prosecutors said.

The emails went to families, friends and co-workers. Women in 17 states, the District of Columbia and England were victimized.

"This case serves as a stark example of what occurs in so-called cyberspace. It has very real consequences," Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Brown said. "The intrusion of one's profile is no different than intruding one's home."

Bronk, 24, pleaded guilty in January to charges that included computer intrusion, false impersonation and possession of child pornography.

Brown sentenced him to four years in state prison for the charges related to the Facebook and email offenses, and added eight more months for charges related to child pornography.

Bronk's attorney, Monica Lynch, said her client took responsibility for his actions and showed remorse. She had sought a sentence of one year in local jail with probation afterward, or two years in state prison with no probation.

Brown based his decision on a sentencing recommendation by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The evaluation stated that Bronk demonstrated remorse and quoted the self-identified alcoholic as saying, "If I could go back with the knowledge that I have now, I would not have done any of the things I did."

But the state expressed concern about his lack of understanding about the severity of his crime and noted Bronk had demonstrated "a high degree of callousness." The evaluation said he used the child pornographic videos and images "as an instrument designed to inflict pain and humiliation on the very people he stole the images from."

Read the entire story here.