Barney Mello (not his real name) probably moved the relationship along too fast. After just several months, he moved in with his new girlfriend, Lola Mulekick (not her real name). Barney maintained a superior level of income. His presence immediately advanced the financial security of Lola’s
home, and the lifestyle of her three sons, ages 8 – 12.
Barney’s relationship with Lola lit the sky like a bottle rocket. Later examination of e-mails, texts, cards and letters demonstrated an “over the top” exuberance for such a short term relationship. Predictably, both Lola and Barney had wandering eyes which caused significant conflict to develop.
Eventually, Barney moved out.
Before they ever had problems, Lola had warned Barney that she knew “people” in town; and that she was especially wired into the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office. Barney was blinded by the white hot relationship and failed to fully appreciate the meaning of her words.
Later on, Lola made it clear that she had the capacity to “get even”, when Barney was seeking to recover his furniture, electronics and other personal property – especially jewelry – from Lola’s house. Lola’s lifestyle was compromised by Barney’s efforts to remove his stuff. Lola’s efforts to
hinder and avoid the removal of the stuff would later create the basis for the first part of her complaint to law enforcement, to-wit: that Barney was stalking her.
Lola would also complain to law enforcement that she had been the victim of “revenge porn”. Barney was subsequently arrested for stalking. The prosecution maintained that the “stalking” involved both the efforts to recover personal property and the posting of “revenge porn” at a local
bar which the two had frequented as a couple.
The defense made extensive subpoena requests for phone, text and computer records for the time period of the relationship. These documents showed that Lola could hardly be characterized as “modest” or “refined”. The images, e-mail and texts demonstrated that Lola seemed to enjoy being
the center of attention, both clothed and less than clothed. They also demonstrated a certain level of crass exuberance, which seemed to indicate that she reveled in public displays of partial nudity, or worse.
Ultimately, the defense focused on two separate aspects of Lola’s claims:
1. The e-mails, texts and phone calls showed that she was contacting Barney about picking up his stuff. Barney’s contacts, and attempted contacts, were responsive to Lola’s, and always dealt with recovering his property.
2. The images uncovered by the defense demonstrated that Lola was fully aware that photos were being taken of her. She had advised law enforcement that the “revenge porn” was secretly photographed without her knowledge. Access to the e-mail attachments, and to the entire sequence
of photos, demonstrated that Lola seemed to revel in her naughty behavior. Confronted with the evidence of the obvious innocense of Barney, the State filed a nolle prosequi on 7/14/14.
Stalking does not prohibit contact for a legitimate purpose. If it did, then all bill collectors would be going to jail! In this case, Barney’s primary purpose was to recover his property. There was no dispute that it was his property.
Stalking involves unwanted contact. Here, Lola invited Barney’s contact via a pattern of texts, emails and phone calls.
“Revenge porn” is in the eye of the beholder. Really, Lola seemed to be an exhibitionist. She can hardly claim to be offended by her own antics.
The State could only demonstrate that Barney had taken a series of photos of Lola doing immodest things in a public place. The entire series demonstrated her knowledge and consent to the photos. Barney, as the photographer, became the owner of the photos.
The State could never show that Barney actually posted a picture on the bulletin board of an over-21 bar. Thus, there was an absence of proof that he “published” the photos.