The strange story of Jonathan Beitel

30 April 2012
5:07 am

It's a reality I've learned to deal with over the years that upon reaching any level of notoriety, crazy comes out of the woodwork. That's not to suggest I'm a celebrity by any means, but I've been on the internet a long time — some of my earliest writing was on "blogs" before the word ever existed, and I've had to deal with anonymous nastiness in a variety of incarnations. Nevertheless, I have still always been willing to put myself out there; being in the spotlight combined with an opinionated and often acerbic personality means that sometimes retaliation crosses the line. I've been fortunate, all things considered, to have only a handful of "proper" stalking experiences, and thankfully most of my passing glances with mad individuals was contained to comments or nasty emails.

I've sat on discussing this one for quite a while now, largely because there was ongoing legal action against the individual involved. However, several months into pursuing this it has become obvious that it's pointless to continue on a civil level — I will get into the specifics, but the short story is that the person in question is mentally ill, lives at home, is un(or under)employed and — tellingly — has ignored both orders from police and my lawyer to cease and desist his ongoing harassment of me. The individual in question also has a record going back for nearly a decade of similarly bullying other people on the internet, of which I am simply the latest fixation; unfortunately, I'm evidently also the first one who fought back, and having encountered a number of other people similarly terrorised by this person I have been reticent to discontinue civil action. Nonetheless, by now it's obvious that this person is content to ignore repeated warnings and attempts to get him to disengage without court order, and it's not clear that even that would be successful in ridding him from my life. So, while I still pursue criminal action against him, I felt the need to write up documentation of my own encounter with this person in hopes that any future people he bullies will realise faster than I did how long this has been going on.

It started out where crazy seems most appropriate: a third party, customer-run forum for the virtual world of Second Life. Though my interest in SL has largely dulled, I have been a member of the community around this forum for six years and I consider myself close friends with a number of other posters on it, even going so far as to meet several of them at various community events in the past. So while I am not particularly active in SL anymore, I post there regularly and participate in a number of political and current-events discussions all over the site.

One particular discussion involved a Second Life group known as the "Justice League Unlimited." Like the trademark they've brazenly ripped, the SL version of the JLU styled themselves as virtual superheroes tasked with protecting the virtual world from trolls, griefers and hackers alike. They've come into conflict with the residents as a whole a number of times, largely through the discovery a year or two back that members of the group had been scraping incredible amounts of real life information about people they'd deemed as "bad" and organising it within an enormous, privately-accessed wiki. The wiki got raided, hacked and leaked several times and the sheer amount of information inside of it — largely unrelated to SL at all, like targets' real life names, addresses, phone numbers, medical information and employment/educational history — caused outrage amongst broad sections of the SL community. The JLU consistently maintained that the information in the wiki was obtained from public sources and only for "bad guys," but I became involved in the issue when I discovered that I had an article about myself inside of it containing a number of private emails and chatlogs I had never given to the JLU nor consented to be published. The emails and chatlogs dealt with a DDoS against one of my websites back in 2006 (ancient stuff) perpetrated by a Second Life hacker group who had mistakenly believed I was the owner/operator of a long-running SL tabloid. Even in the JLU's article I was referred to as a "good guy" and a "friend," despite the fact that I didn't even know who the JLU were at all at the time of the DDoS, so it shot holes in the argument perpetrated by the JLU that the only people in the wiki were those who had done something wrong.

The JLU incident brought "privacy in SL" up in discussions continuously as residents deliberated on what they could reasonably expect inside the service. I've always been pretty much myself online, never hiding behind a virtual identity, but I understand that to a lot of people it's a form of expression that allows them to present themselves in ways they can't — in many ways because their physical safety could be jeopardised — in real life. Thus, I've always argued that invasions and outings like this are inappropriate.

In one of the threads on SLU — the aforementioned customer-run forum — after many pages of argument between SL residents and JLU members, one account emerged representing itself as a police officer. This account, "Cummere Mayo," claimed to be a female deputy in Arizona who had taken a personal interest in the legal implications of the data-collection. Coming down hard against the JLU the poster initially gained a lot of favour and appreciation from other SLU members largely because of the fact that she claimed to have spearheaded an investigation against JLU members by the police. However, on the internet nobody knows you're a dog, and various remarks that "Cummere" made about both the legal system and her own background didn't match up accurately. I, along with a number of other posters on SLU, became suspicious and pressed her for some concrete information about the case and some proof that she was actually in law enforcement. Indeed, initially "Cummere" had entered the discussion brazenly wearing her legal credentials on her sleeve, so it seemed to be no small matter to ask for some proof that she was, in fact, actually a cop. Surprisingly, "Cummere" responded to these requests with much hostility, initially lashing out at anyone who asked them and refusing to validate the background she, herself, brought up. What started out as "take me seriously, I'm a cop" had suddenly become outrage towards anybody who dared question her or even bring her job up.

This caught the attention of other posters who began asking for an explanation as well. Eventually, "Cummere" released the name and number of the officer she claimed was involved in the case — by this point she'd refined her original statement of leading the investigation herself to simply "I called a cop in another state, in another district, as a civilian and left a complaint." Unsurprisingly, using the name and number she provided turned up nothing about any case related to the JLU at all, and it was obvious to many people on SLU that "Cummere" was a fraud. For whatever reason, probably due to the immediate accessibility of a lot of information about my real identity, "Cummere" chose me to fixate on. "Cummere" began claiming that I had been stalking her in SL for weeks and further directed people to harass her in-world after she'd ignored me. Absent the fact that I've logged into SL perhaps five times in as many years, anyone who's known me even a moderate length of time knows that's not how I operate. A request that "Cummere" provide logs of these messages or even names of the accounts involved unsurprisingly got refused, and this set the groundwork for what would become a common refrain in my interactions with "her." "Cummere" would make accusations and refuse to back them up for weeks, escalating the claim each time the implausibility of the previous one was underscored; eventually the owner of the forum got tired of this and informed her if she was not going to post proof of the alleged harassment, she was not permitted to keep making the accusation.

It was about this time that "Cummere" claimed I had been leaving harassing messages on a Blogspot-hosted website that I had previously never heard of. Owned by a supposed friend of hers' known as "Porthos Dreddmor" or "CLB," a very cursory glance at the previous blog entries revealed that both he and "Cummere" had an apparent bad string of luck with similar harassment by critics. Almost at once I began to suspect that "Cummere" and "Porthos" were the same person; not only did they possess a similar writing style, but they had the same very distinct spelling errors and typos as well. It was on this site that "Porthos" began posting chatlogs of messages "by" me that he had received — they were so obviously faked, or at the very least written by someone who was trying to write like me but failing, that it was clear to everyone on SLU that I wasn't involved. Swear-word filled diatribes and sexist slurs abounded, along with accusations by "Porthos" that I had been illegally hacking it and other sites owned by him to cause him harm.

This went on for weeks. In the interests of brevity I will avoid spelling out everything that happened, but to summarise: "Porthos" eventually posted a "cease and desist" blog entry calling me out by my real name (not my SL account name that, up to that point, had been the exclusive identity he referred to me under), and signed it as "Jonathan Peter B." A different user on SLU happened to notice that "Cummere Mayo" had been an active participant in one of the SL development mailing lists and pointed me to an archive of emails by her (under her claimed RL name of Erin Mallory) which possessed an IP address. Oddly enough, the IP address associated with her activity (which was consistently the same for approximately a year) resolved to a suburb just outside of Dayton, OH — not, as she claimed to live in previously — Arizona. Similarly, all attempts to turn up records of an Erin Mallory being employed anywhere by the police in Arizona ended at zero. On a hunch I searched phone records for "Jonathan Peter B." in Ohio and right away discovered what would be the one and only result: a Jonathan Peter Betel living in Centerville, Ohio (just outside of Dayton.) It took seconds of googling to confirm that this was the same person connected to the Blogspot blog — searching this real name turned up a new identity called "greeniewolf" which had profiles on twitter and livejournal that linked back directly to that same Blogspot page. Additionally, searching his name turned up a number of public Facebook posts written by him containing hostile and often racist statements on things like illegal immigration and liberal politics.

One of my earliest encounters with the "Porthos" account involved him calling me a gay slur — an action he later denied, and went so far as to fabricate chatlogs and screenshots to try and prove his innocence of. In fact, me being gay has turned up repeatedly in remarks across all his accounts, from fabricated complaints that I'd hit on him and others to remarks that I was "sexist" because I was gay. Though Jonathan has scrubbed all of these from his personal blog, the uploaded PDFs of the entries remain linked throughout this entry for posterity.

Additionally, the Facebook account linked back to the first Blogspot site and similar blogs owned by him as well.

At about the same time, a fake account using my SL name (which was, I believe, owned/operated by Cummere/Porthos/Jonathan) registered for Blogspot and began leaving rants on "Porthos'" blog — the content of the rants were wildly inappropriate and entirely unlike me, but also contained a number of direct physical threats against both "Cummere" and "Porthos" as well as police officers in general. Additionally, posts by "Porthos" were increasingly referring to me by my real life name instead of my SL one — I believe that this was a deliberate attempt by him to connect the activity on the fake account with my real identity in order to poison google searches for anything related to me.

By this point I had felt that things had gone on long enough. I possessed a phone number and address and had confirmed that this identity was the one that had been relentlessly attacking me for several weeks now. I called the phone number listed, expecting to speak with Jonathan and make it obvious that I expected the harassment to stop or I would contact the police. To my surprise, his father picked up the phone instead. I had a brief conversation with him wherein I explained what his son had been doing, read some of the posts that he'd written (in particular the death threats) and told him that if it continued I would pursue action with the police. Hoping that this would be the end of it, I was surprised and disappointed when a few hours later new blog entries appeared on "Porthos'" website claiming that his brother's car had been vandalised and a "clear threat" related to me was left with a note on the car. Ignoring the difficulties in teleporting from Australia to Ohio while I was asleep, it was becoming obvious to me that Jonathan was incapable of stopping this pathological lying without external pressure. I contacted police in Ohio and left a complaint; Jonathan, on the "Porthos" blog, posted his own response: he had filed a police report of his own claiming harassment and the aforementioned car vandalism. It took a bit of effort to determine that this actually happened, as Jonathan obfuscated all details of the scanned report in a deliberate attempt to make it difficult for me to speak with police. But eventually I did manage to track it down and I was surprised to discover that he had actually filed the report. I spoke with the officer involved and was told by him that they really weren't taking his complaint seriously — for one, I'm not in the United States or even Ohio — and relayed that he would tell Jonathan not to have further contact with me.

Once again, any hopes I had that this would result in things stopping ended when Jonathan escalated the false accusations yet again: a third account appeared on twitter, posting from some strange alternate-reality where I had a long and storied history in New York of stalking people and a rap sheet a mile long; according to this account police in Ohio were actively involved with police in Sydney in investigating me and it was simply a matter of time before my arrest for stalking and hacking. It was almost funny how elaborate and strange these fabrications were and it might have been more amusing if I hadn't been the target of them.

It's worth pointing out that all along Jonathan Beitel, "Cummere Mayo" and the new, third account maintained they were distinct individuals — going so far as to publish photos online claiming to show proof that different people were together and so forth. "Cummere Mayo," for example, claimed to be the red-haired individual photographed in the photo "she" put in her SL profile. While it's very clear that Jonathan is in each of these photos, it's more difficult to determine that the red-haired girl is Cummere Mayo/Erin Mallory or even knows that Jonathan has usurped her identity for this purpose. Furthermore, within Second Life itself both Cummere Mayo and Porthos Dreddmor have a storied history of encounters with other people; when I initially publicised my experience with Jonathan, I received a number of messages from people who had their own issues with being bullied by "Cummere Mayo" and an army of alts. One particularly amusing example of this was a SL roller derby group that Cummere was evicted from due to her behaviour and harassment of others; the other members of the group commonly used voice chat and whenever Cummere Mayo spoke it was obvious that the voice on the other end was using modulation software to attempt to sound more feminine. In response to this Cummere Mayo provided a bizarre and overly-elaborate explanation of needing to use a mechanical voice due to a previous suicide attempt (through the throat?) that turned up evidence of throat cancer. In the end the evidence is overwhelming that all three identities (along with other ancillary accounts) belonged to Jonathan Beitel alone and were not — as he still claims — real people.

By now I had started searching around online to draw correlations between the various identities and internet handles Jonathan had used so far. I was stunned to turn up entries made repeatedly over the last ten years all revolving around the same repetition: "someone is stalking me, someone is harassing me, I'm calling the police and taking them to court." Over and over, for several years, with various different people — the common thread between all of us simply seemed to be that we found comments made by him and his different identities to be suspicious and accused him of lying. The "Cummere Mayo/Erin Mallory" identity is obviously Jonathan's main character in these dramas, and he's seemed desperate to pull "her" out of it when things got too hot.

All the same, I was tired of it: by now Jonathan and his legion of alternative accounts had discovered my Amazon book listings and were leaving repeated one-star reviews attacking me (largely, he removed most of these on his own; the ones he left were the more demure and believable negative reviews, getting rid of those that personally attacked me or referenced the harassment itself). Every day I would wake up to new blog posts discussing things that had simply never happened, and the third twitter account was in full force using my real name to complain about stalking against both Jonathan and his family members.

It was bad enough to be targeted, but he had extended his lying to both the owner of SLU and my boyfriend in an attempt to cause financial harm to both. I contacted a lawyer and evaluated what my options were. Soon after Jonathan was sent a formal C&D notice; in the notice his parents were involved as well, as by that point I had determined that the internet connection Jonathan was using was registered to them. Additionally, the owner of SLU received a legal request for information associated with the account and unsurprisingly the IP address records belonging to "Cummere Mayo" matched the same Dayton, Ohio IP from the mailing list as well as the IP address I had for Jonathan; all identities pointed back to Ohio and never Arizona.

Jonathan ignored the C&D directly, but addressed it in the same manner he had done each time I attempted to get him to stop:

It's almost worthless to point out by this point, but lawsuits in Australia are a matter of public record and, no surprise, searching my name turns up nothing. It never happened. To say nothing of the fact that my lawyer is based in the US, as was the case itself, but facts seem to be ignored or retold when it comes to Jonathan Beitel.

Ultimately I was hopeful that this nonsense could have ended months ago — I certainly gave him every opportunity to simply take the blog posts, twitter messages and negative reviews down, not even asking him to cop to admitting he was making everything up. But he has been simply unwilling to do so and more than happy to escalate things no matter the cost to himself or his family. It's been a consistent pattern of behaviour for him for years now and it's obviously psychological; some of the blog entries I've found on other sites penned by accounts of his refer to his "sudden death," as if they were in standby in case this all blew up in his face. All told the entire thing is astonishingly bizarre, and if I didn't have an ocean between us and he had the means I would be more concerned for my physical safety. Other parts of the internet turn up personals profiles belonging to him, indicating rather sick sexual interests in slavery and rape.

But, as much as it irritates me to acknowledge it, the option of continuing civil action against him is no longer on the table. While I can handle the cost of it, it's more than obvious that he has nothing that I could recoup in damages (even if it was about the money and not simply about making him stop this), nor is it obvious that absent a judge confiscating his computers and ordering his internet disconnected will he even stop — if he's been willing to lie to police and ignore cease and desist notices from lawyers, I have no confidence he would stop even after losing a lawsuit. Even today, despite the fact that I have not spoken to, of or about him in months his twitter accounts still reference me and make things up.

It's easy to dismiss a lot of this as silly internet stupidity — the Amazon reviews aside — but at one point the false police report could have managed to jeopardise my permanent residency in Australia, as "stalking and harassing" is one of the prime bullet points that gets an application rejected here. It is obvious that Jonathan Beitel has sought to do real, tangible harm through whatever means necessary. And, again, I'm simply the latest person to encounter him in this context.

So I am leaving it to this and the pending effort with criminal actions — impersonating a police officer is a criminal offence in both Arizona and Ohio, and filing a false police report is similarly illegal in Ohio as well. My objective in writing all of this up and correlating it in one spot was the hope that if, in the future, Jonathan Beitel bothers someone else they have more of a leg up than I did when I originally encountered this sad, strange individual. I also hope it serves as a warning to anyone who happens to encounter him on any of his myriad identities: this person is unhinged and dangerous, and they are best avoided.

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