As we have discussed before in this blog, the line between legal online communications and illegal cyberstalking under Florida law is quite subjective. The relevant statute states that in order to qualify as cyberstalking, the messages in question must serve no legitimate purpose and cause the recipient substantial emotional distress.
Neither “legitimate purpose” nor “substantial distress” can be measured objectively, so the outcome to cyberstalking charges depends on the facts of the individual case. When are emails, text messages, instant messages, etc., harassment, and when are they sincere efforts to communicate?
Attorney accused by his former firm
In a recent example, an attorney in another state who is suing his former law firm for racial discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination has been charged with cyberstalking partners and employees of the firm. Federal prosecutors claim that the man sent thousands of threatening or intimidating emails and text messages. An article about the case provides no examples of the allegedly harassing messages.
Racial discrimination lawsuit
After the man was fired in 2019, he filed a lawsuit against the firm, alleging that he and other Black employees had fewer opportunities for advancement. The lawsuit says the firm retaliated against his reports of racial discrimination by firing him and continued to harass him after his job ended. The firm denies the accusations. The lawsuit is still ongoing, Reuters reports.
Without knowing the messages’ content, it is hard to have an opinion about whether prosecutors have a strong case here or how many of the messages were related to the lawsuit. If nothing else, this story is a reminder that what you write in emails and text messages might be used as evidence against you someday.