People have the right to privacy, and they have the right to not have their peace disturbed. When their privacy and/or peace are violated, it can lead to criminal charges as we see in this case.
NPR reports that in January 2017, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office arrested 31-year old Sean Michael Vest on 15 counts of aggravated stalking and cyber-stalking. The alleged harassment occurred between December 16, 2016 and the time that Vest was arrested in January. The Sheriff then began looking for more alleged victims in a complex cyber-stalking case.
According to Pensacola News Journal, in the six weeks following his arrest, 32 alleged victims have come forth, and the number of counts against Vest increased to 26.
Vest represented himself as ‘”Mr. Pervert.” He used a series of harassing text messages and phone calls to several women by pulling their public photos off social media. He did that through all hours of the day and night. Deputy Amber Bernard is leading the investigation and stated about Vest’s actions;
“He then used these photos on some sexual dating websites, along with some graphic images and graphic content.”
Vest is also accused of collecting photographs of victims, including children, from social media sites and selling them to sexual websites.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan says;
“We want the public to understand that if you engage in Facebook; any sort of social media activity – if you post pictures of yourself and your children, we sadly live in a world today that there are no protections for you not ending up a victim of an Internet-based crime.”
One of the victims changed her telephone number, but the same text messages started coming through to her husband, mother and mother-in-law.
Vest used programs that gave him phone numbers outside of the United States. However, one of the phone numbers he allegedly used was linked to a Facebook account in his name.
Police narrowed their investigation to victims having something in common, and found that several were from the same graduating class at Catholic High School. They singled out Vest as someone who has a problem with them.
A statement that speaks volumes was made by Assistant State Attorney John Molchan who said that one challenge to cyber-stalking is that it didn’t exist 20-25 years ago.
“This is one of those areas of the law where the law has not caught up with the technology that is out here,” Molchan said. “This is one of those cases that we will learn from.”
Sean Michael Vest is in the Escambia County Jail under $375,000 bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for May. If convicted, Vest faces 75 years in prison.