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Aug. 27 2009 - 11:19 am | 14 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

The tale of the Crazy (but not Criminal) Cyberstalking Bunny

Like mental disease, crimes are often a matter of degree. Many of us are probably guilty of some cyberstalking: obsessively checking someone’s Facebook page, performing Google searches on friends’ names, or monitoring a love interest’s Twitter feed. (Hey, there’s even an iPhone app for it!)

When cyberstalking moves to the level of threatening/harassing though, it becomes a crime. Rhode Island has had a cyberstalking law on its books since 2001, but police haven’t had the chance to enforce it until this year. In April, police pressed charges against Ann Bruno, the 59-year-old owner of Bruna Puppets and Costumes, who had been using a computer at the local library to harass a competitor.

The local news visited her store to get her side of the story. Her performance makes me think cyberstalking and mental disease do indeed go hand in hand:

(Hattip: Reddit.)

So what’s up with Bruno and those charges? You might be surprised.

Here’s the background from the local TV news station:

A Providence business owner is accused of using a computer to harass a competitor.

Cranston police arrested Ann Bruno on Monday. It’s the first time Cranston police have used the state’s cyberstalking law.

Police said they caught Bruno in the act of allegedly cyberstalking and harassing her competitor.

Tracy Sisson owns the Absolute Fun business in Cranston.

For the past year, she’s been getting dozens of harassing phone calls a day at her business and her home… Sisson said she received 50 to 60 calls a day from different people. Fed up with harassing phone calls, losing sleep and any peace of mind, Sisson called Cranston police a few months ago.

With Sisson’s help, investigators said they caught Bruno, 59, who owns Bruna Puppets and Costumes in Cranston, in the act of cyberstalking Sisson using a computer at the Cranston Public Library.

“She was basically engaging in signing Mrs. Sisson up for inquires and questions, debt-relief programs, which later on resulted in her receiving an abundance of telephone calls at her place of business,“ said Col. Stephen McGrath, chief of the Cranston police.

via I-Team: Costume-shop owner accused of cyberstalking | turnto10.com.

Absolutely not Fun, I guess.

Maybe Bruno’s antics for the TV crew were part of a clever plan to use an insanity defense at trial. Looks like she won’t have to go to the trouble. Though this appeared to be a pretty clear case of cyberstalking, the local prosecutor decided to drop the charges this month:

The city of Cranston has dropped charges against a businesswoman accused of cyber-stalking a competitor…

Cranston city prosecutor Dave Igliozzi said a cyber harassment charge against Bruno was dropped because of legal and evidentiary issues.  The case could be re-filed, Igliozzi said.

Bruno, who owns Bruna Puppets and Costumes in Providence, was awaiting trial after rejecting a plea offer from a prosecutor.

via City drops charges in cyber-stalking case | turnto10.com.

Based on that video, Bruno strikes me as the perfect comic-book style villain — ‘The Evil Cyberstalking Bunny’ –but that’s not enough to make her a criminal in the eyes of Rhode Island.


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    I am a writer, reporter, editor and blogger. I'm an editor at Above The Law, where I blog about lawyers, judges, law firms and the legal industry. Here at True/Slant, I write about our changing notions of privacy.

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