Crime

He's been sentenced for 'revenge porn,' which makes him the first in Pierce County

Ex-boyfriend is the first sentenced for ‘revenge porn’ in Pierce County.

Michael Andrew Hart was sentenced April 6, 2018 for stalking, cyberstalking, violating protection orders, and for distributing sexual images of his ex-girlfriend and others online in 2016.
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Michael Andrew Hart was sentenced April 6, 2018 for stalking, cyberstalking, violating protection orders, and for distributing sexual images of his ex-girlfriend and others online in 2016.

Judge Karena Kirkendoll told Michael Andrew Hart on Friday that she doesn't doubt he's mentally ill.

She also thinks he's a threat.

"I believe that you are dangerous," the Pierce County Superior Court judge said before she sentenced him for being a stalker.

Hart, 44, spread sexual images of his ex-girlfriend, her sister and her friend across Facebook without their permission.

In December, he pleaded guilty to stalking, cyberstalking, four counts of violating a domestic violence protection order and six counts of disclosing intimate images.

Kirkendoll sentenced Hart to seven years in prison as part of a drug offender special sentencing alternative. That means he'll serve half of the time in prison and be eligible to spend the other half getting treatment in the community.

She also ordered him to get mental health, drug and domestic violence treatment.

Hart apparently is the first person in Pierce County to be charged with disclosing intimate images, so-called "revenge porn," since state lawmakers made it a gross misdemeanor in 2015.

Kirkendoll gave him an additional 364 days suspended for each of those six counts. That means he won't have to serve that time if he avoids further trouble with the law.

The ex-girlfriend, identified in court by the initials S.C., told the judge she suffered for six years as she dated Hart. He physically, sexually and emotionally abused her, she said.

She didn't leave because she feared for her life, and of what Hart would do to her family, the woman told the court.

She said he would tell her, "This is your torture," as he hurt her, and would make her beg for him to stop the abuse.

"The only way we can protect ourselves from him is to keep him locked up," S.C. told Kirkendoll.

Defense attorney Wayne Fricke wrote in his sentencing memorandum that Hart has a substance abuse problem, and suffers from various mental health troubles.

"Everyone here thinks he needs help," Fricke told the judge.

Kirkendoll agreed, and said she wanted Hart to get the treatment offered by the special sentencing alternative that Fricke recommended .

Deputy prosecutor Dru Swaim asked for more time. She wanted a sentence of nine years in prison, above Hart's standard range.

Swaim told the court Hart was calculated in his approach, by using fake Facebook accounts and a virtual private network that made it look as if he was in Eastern Europe.

He was so successful, she said, that investigators might not have caught him, except for two times he forgot to log in through the VPN, before accessing the fake social media accounts.

"He was that good at hiding his tracks," she said.

Swaim characterized Hart's behavior against the ex-girlfriend as a "coordinated campaign to basically try to destroy her life."

Some of the worst images Hart saved until the end, Swaim said, causing fear and uncertainty about whether he was going to release them.

"This wasn't just a one-and-done angry thing," the prosecutor said, calling the files "very graphic and very demeaning."

When it was Hart's turn to speak, he told the court: "I've been in a bad place mentally for a very long time."

He said he couldn't control his actions, and that he was "extremely sorry," for them.

And he asked for forgiveness.

"I need to change, and I want to change, and I will change," he said.

Court records show Hart led police on a high-speed chase down Interstate 5 in 2014 as they were investigating allegations that he'd beaten S.C., who was his then-girlfriend.

Then he violated a restraining order by contacting her family almost as soon as he got out of prison on Dec. 4, 2015. Between Feb. 11 and March 7, 2016, he sent the explicit photos, video and audio of the woman, her friend and her sister to their Facebook contacts.

Some of the images that reached the women's family, friends and coworkers were taken without consent, prosecutors said.

Court records also show that at least seven women Hart has dated have asked for restraining orders against him since 2000.

He also was accused of making threatening and profane calls to 911 dispatchers in December 2016, after police visited his home.

Those felony harassment charges were dismissed as part of negotiations with prosecutors in the stalking case.

"... the defendant is pleading guilty to twelve crimes and facing the potential of substantial prison time," Swaim wrote in her motion to dismiss those charges.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell
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