porn

“It was kinda fun and entertaining at first, but now it’s like ruining my life.” Those were the prophetic words of Kevin Bollaert, 28, who was found guilty on February 2, 2015, of 27 felonies stemming from his operation of a revenge porn website, where users uploaded over 10,000 nude and sexually explicit photos of women and men without their consent, and for his operation of a sister site where he extorted payment to remove the photos. On April 3, 2015, it was not fun or entertaining for Bollaert when he was sentenced to 18 years behind bars. Bollaert’s conviction is the first criminal conviction in California for the operator of a revenge porn website.

Out of his Pacific Beach apartment Bollaert created and ran UGotPosted.com, where the unauthorized photos were posted along with identifying information. Unknowing victims discovered that their full names, addresses, work affiliations, and social media profiles were provided along with their intimate photos. Anonymous viewers were free to leave comments or to contact the victims directly, resulting in a deluge of unwanted solicitations, degrading messages, threats, and harassment. Victims were left feeling angry, embarrassed, humiliated, and frightened.

Bollaert next created ChangeMyReputation.com, where he charged victims as much as $350 to have a photo removed from the website.  According to Deputy Attorney General Tawyna Austin, Bollaert made $30,000 from December of 2012 until the websites were shut down by the Attorney General’s office in September of 2013. Some victims paid the money with the hope of putting their ordeal behind them, only to find out that their photos had surfaced elsewhere on the internet. Victims felt helpless, and were forced to hire lawyers. Other victims lost their jobs, homes, relationships, and one individual even attempted suicide. Attorney Austin said that the harm was never going to go away.

During the trial, Bollaert’s attorney, Public Defender Emily Rose-Weber argued that the website was “gross” and “offensive,” but it was not illegal.  She said Bollaert was guilty of “moral transgressions” and that he “capitalized on human weakness” by creating an opportunity for others to upload offensive photos and comments. Yet she maintained that Bollaert did not break the law as he personally did not take any of the photos, upload any of the photos, or write any of the comments.  Rose-Weber placed the blame on the ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends, and other users who uploaded the photos, and said that all the harassment came from third parties.

 Whether Bollaert was an actual content provider or whether he was merely the proprietor of an online service was a crucial issue at the trial. Rose-Weber argued that Bollaert was a proprietor of an online service and that he should be granted the same immunity as other social networks and online intermediaries that publish third party content.  Protection could be afforded to Bollaert under the Federal Communications Decency Act, Section 203, which states, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Prosecutor Austin argued Bollaert was an actual content provider because he managed the website, personally reviewed the submissions, required users to provide identifying information, and set up requirements for those who wanted their photos removed. Attorney Austin said that Bollaert knew what he was doing was wrong.  “He is a vindictive individual who takes pleasure out of harming people” she insisted.

On the day of sentencing, Bollaert was finally moved to tears when his own father pled for mercy on his behalf.  Bollaert’s father told the court that his son had shown remorse, wished that he never made the websites, and if he could go back and change it, he would.  His father apologized to the victims and said, “How sorry I am to be here for the stupid, inappropriate things my son did.”

Judge David Gill, who has been on the bench for over 40 years was not swayed, saying instead, “He deserves to be punished very severely.”  Judge Gill said that the case cried out for consecutive sentences and to send a message. He continued, “We have to honor the human dignity and incredible devastation.”  He sentenced Bollaert to 18 years, which Bollaert will serve in the San Diego County jail, rather than prison, as a non-violent offender under the Realignment Act.  Bollaert’s legal troubles are far from over as he still faces civil suits.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris addressed Bollaert’s punishment and said, “Today’s sentence makes clear there will be severe consequences for those that profit from the exploitation of victims online. Sitting behind a computer, committing what is essentially a cowardly and criminal act will not shield predators from the law or jail.  We will continue to be vigilant and investigate and prosecute those who commit these deplorable acts.”

To See Photos of Kevin Bollaert and Media Coverage of the Case, Please Go To The Following Link:

http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Kevin-Bollaert-Convicted-in-Revenge-Porn-Case-Website-290593621.html