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Police blotter: Net stalker loses appeal

Man convicted of cyberstalking a television reporter is unable to get out of his 96-month prison sentence.

"Police blotter" is a weekly report on the intersection of technology and the law. This episode: An Internet stalker is unable to get out of his long trip to Club Fed.

What: A convicted cyberstalker appeals his prison sentence.

When: Decided July 27 by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

Outcome: Sentence of 96 months in prison and three years supervised release was left unchanged.

What happened: Starting in 2000, Eric S. Bowker began aggressively pursuing Tina Knight, a part-time general-assignment reporter at WKBN Television in Youngstown, Ohio, according to the court.

Bowker sent her what the court described as "several dozen strange, lewd, obsessive, and hostile letters and e-mails"--behavior that continued even after she moved to Charleston, W.Va., and switched careers.

Over time, Bowker's behavior became increasingly bizarre, court documents showed. He began writing letters to Knight's parents and sent her photographs of himself posing in locations in West Virginia.

When Bowker eventually was arrested, police discovered he had a copy of the reporter's Discover credit card bill, her credit report, her birth certificate, photos of her new home, car and workplace, and maps of West Virginia, the court said. He also had 20 prior criminal convictions.

A federal jury in June 2002 found Bowker guilty on four counts (cyberstalking, theft of mail, telephone harassment and interstate stalking). He was sentenced to 96 months in prison, DNA collection and three years of supervised release during which he was prohibited from using the Internet.

But after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision this year in the U.S. v. Booker case, which revamped how prison sentences were determined, Bowker tried to have his prison stay reduced.

He failed. U.S. District Judge John Manos decided that the previous sentence "imposed on September 11, 2002, is appropriate even under the now-advisory guidelines."

Excerpt from an appeals court's earlier June 2004 opinion: (Click here for the document.) "WKBN has a general e-mail account for most employees, and in June, 2000, WKBN received a number of e-mails relating to Knight. The e-mails were sent from several different e-mail addresses and purported to be from an individual variously identified as 'User x,' Eric Neubauer, Karen Walters, and 'BB.' Several of the e-mails attached photographs with verbal captions. One caption referred to Knight being shot with a pellet gun, and another e-mail said, 'Thanks for my daily Tina Knight fix. Thanks for helping me get my nuts off,' and another said, 'More Tina Knight, that is what I want and need.'"