Crime Time: Life lessons, courtesy of Erin Andrews' stalkerFri Mar 19, 2010 @ 10:23AM PST
Our weekly criminal courts columnist is back with a look at Erin Andrews and the culture of celebrity stalking....
By Russell Wetanson
Sometimes I wonder if I’m a stalker. I follow you on Twitter. I check your status updates on Facebook. I go to your MySpace page. I subscribe to your blog. I even Google you sometimes.
But I’m not a stalker … right? Are you? The answer, of course, can be found in this week’s entertainment news.
Meet Michael Barrett. He’s a 48-year-old Chicago insurance executive who was sentenced to 30 months in Federal prison this week after victimizing ESPN reporter Erin Andrews and pleading guilty to one count of interstate stalking.
U.S. Code section 2261A(1), the “interstate stalking” statute, makes it a federal crime to travel across state, tribal or international lines to stalk another person with "the intent to kill, injure, harass, or place under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person."
Furthermore, the travel must result in reasonable fear of death, serious bodily injury or substantial emotional distress either to a victim or a victim's family member, spouse or intimate partner.
Sadly for Andrews, Barrett’s conduct clearly falls within the statutory framework. In October, authorities took Barrett into custody at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and prosecutors accused him of renting hotel rooms next to Andrews in three states, altering peepholes, shooting videos of Andrews while she was naked, posting the videos online (which countless people saw), and trying to sell them to TMZ.
In December, Barrett pleaded guilty to the one count and agreed to a 27-month prison sentence with prosecutors. Earlier this week, Andrews and her attorney, Marshall Grossman (left), sat in the Los Angeles courtroom as U.S. District Judge Manuel Real increased the plea bargain arrangement and sentenced him to the maximum of 30 months.
Judge Real also ordered that Barrett, among other things: (1) have supervised probation for three years following his release; (2) be prohibited from contacting Andrews, her family or friends; (3) not be permitted to stay in a hotel without approval of a probation officer; and (4) pay fines and restitution in the amount of more than $12,000.
Compared to Barrett, I’m pretty confident that I’m not a stalker, despite my social networking habits. Like a good lawyer, however, I look to pop culture precedent for back up and emotional comfort.
Since last year alone, Jennifer Garner, Tyra Banks, Uma Thurman, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jamie Foxx, Celine Dion, and Eryka Badu all have reported (bizarre) run-ins with stalkers.
According to court documents filed in January 2009, Hewitt’s stalker sent her more than 120 letters describing “delusional and violent fantasies about having sexual relations with Ms. Hewitt…marring her, impaling her and envisioning her fiancé with his head blown off.”
In February 2009, Canadian police arrested Dion’s alleged stalker after he buzzed Celine’s intercom, demanded to see her and refused to leave. (Yes, “Because He Loved Her.”)
And in March 2009, Badu informed her fans via Twitter (I know this because I was stalking…er…following her on Twitter) that she was late to a performance because she had to file a police report after the cops “pepper sprayed and cuffed” a female stalker outside her house.
According to Badu, the woman laid out a bunch of items on her lawn, including “blue shutters, a rabbit, a toucan and a sketch book.”
I don’t own a toucan, nor would I know where to get one. Case closed…right? Or, maybe our modern form of communicating, following, and Googling makes us all one status update away from stalker-ville.
Got a Crime Time question or comment? Reach Russell Wetanson at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him at twitter.com/popsquire and watch him on TV Guide Network and HLN.