A Beverly man avoided prison time Thursday for mailing threatening communications to the Dallas corporate offices of the online dating site OkCupid after the company banned him from the service.
Liam MacLeod, 48, was sentenced in US District Court in Boston to two years of probation, with conditions that he serve “2 months in a halfway house and 8 months in a Sober House on Home Confinement,” court records show.
MacLeod pleaded guilty in June to two counts each of mailing threatening communications and conveying false information and hoaxes. Federal prosecutors had requested five months in prison, records show.
Prosecutors said OkCupid suspended MacLeod’s user privileges in September 2017 after he “repeatedly violated” the company’s terms of service.
“Thereafter, seemingly angered by OkCupid’s decision to suspend his account privileges, MacLeod initiated a weeks-long campaign to harass and threaten OkCupid and its employees using the mail,” the government wrote in a sentencing memo.
In his first note, addressed to OkCupid’s CEO the day after he got booted from the site, prosecutors said, MacLeod wrote: “Greetings from Beverly. Ban me will ya. Welcome to the wonderful world of ANTHRAX. Expect a package within the next couple of days. It won’t be ticking but it should be interesting!”
A second letter, sent a couple days later to the CEO, said: “How’d you like what I sent you? Aww, go take a powder. Oh, the things I have in store for you! I can go on like this for years. How long can you last? Incidentally, my father was an angel: That’s Hell’s Angel to you. You see, we have some pull. Take for example your vehicles. We now know who owns what, and where each of you parks his. Hmm, think of the possibilities!”
Authorities tested all the mailings, and no hazardous material was found.
“The seriousness of the defendant’s crimes must not be understated,” prosecutors wrote. “Over a period of more than twelve weeks, the defendant harassed and threatened to cause harm to OkCupid’s employees, including its CEO.”
MacLeod’s public defender, Scott Lauer, had requested a three-year probationary sentence, records show. He wrote that MacLeod “suffers from a litany of physical and psychiatric ailments that have left him disabled for nearly his entire adult life. In his isolation and desire for social contact, he joined an online dating service. Far from finding companionship, his experience only served to remind him of his own loneliness. Embittered, mentally disorganized, and often under the influence of alcohol, he lashed out.”
Lauer based his request for probation on MacLeod’s “substantial medical needs, and because his conduct was the product of unique circumstances that are unlikely to recur provided he remains sober and compliant with psychiatric care.” MacLeod, Lauer wrote, lives on a modest disability payment and food stamps and had already suffered severe consequences prior to sentencing — the loss of his subsidized housing, where he had lived for approximately two decades.
Three people submitted letters in support of MacLeod, including Gale Bowers. “When I lost my companion very suddenly [MacLeod] was there with another friend to help me clean out his home,” Bowers wrote. “He was also there when I moved as well as countless other times too. He is not only a good friend but a good person too.”