November 14, 2013 10:05:02 AM
Sarah Fowler - email@example.com
A local kindergarten teacher has been arrested for cyber stalking.
Angela Farrell, 44, of Millport, Ala., was arrested last Thursday after a Lowndes County Sheriff's Department investigation. Farrell teaches at New Hope Elementary School.
Detective Tony Cooper said Farrell sent multiple text messages and emails to her ex-husband after he asked her to stop.
"Under cyber stalking, there is a harassing subsection," Cooper said. "She was sending him texts but there weren't any threats to do bodily harm. It's just he got tired of her sending texts and emails. He told her to stop and she didn't stop."
Cyber stalking is defined by Mississippi law as the unlawful "use in electronic mail or electronic communication any words or language threatening to inflict bodily harm to any person or to that person's child, sibling, spouse or dependent, or physical injury to the property of any person, or for the purpose of extorting money or other things of value from any person."
Harassing texts, emails and posts on social media is considered cyber stalking under the law. "It is unlawful for a person to electronically mail or electronically communicate to another repeatedly, whether or not conversation ensues, for the purpose of threatening, terrifying or harassing any person," the code reads.
Cyber stalking carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Farrell is the eighth person arrested for cyber stalking in Lowndes County this year. Cooper said he has seen a rise in cyber stalking arrests in recent years due to evolving technology. While phone harassment was more predominant in years past, the tides have shifted to harassing via the Internet and cell phones, Cooper said. He added that due to the statute, a person does not have to physically threaten someone in order to be arrested for cyber stalking.
"It used to be, 'Don't call me,' and then you would file harassing phone call charges if they kept calling," he said. "The way the law is written, if you start sending harassing emails and texts, it's a felony. Harassing phone calls is a misdemeanor."
While law enforcement investigates every cyber stalking complaint, Cooper said his agency will work to determine if the threat is viable before arresting a suspect.
"If I'm in Michigan and I send you a text that says, 'I'm going to kill you,' then I don't really have the means to do that. If I'm two blocks away when I send you that and I show up at your door, then there is a means to do it. There's a difference in those types of situations," he said.
Cooper encouraged people to remember that anything they say or do online or in text messaging can be traced.
"People think it's easier to hide behind a computer screen and to do this type of stuff but it's easier to track them," he said. "If the victim tells you to stop, stop. Don't post threats to do bodily injury or send texts messages or emails because it leave s a clear trail and sometimes it's pretty easy to follow back."
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah