Newark - A computer programmer was charged in federal court today with trying to cripple nine websites, including RollingStone.com, that posted articles about him being duped into meeting a fictitious woman he met online.
Bruce Raisley, 47, of Monaca, Pa., surrendered to FBI agents in Newark and was charged with computer fraud and abuse, authorities said. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, said Erez Lieberman, an assistant U.S. attorney.
Raisley is accused of unleashing months-long attacks against the websites in response to two articles written by reporters for Rolling Stone and Radar Magazine, according to authorities.
The articles, detailed Raisley's feud with the founder of Perverted Justice, a group whose volunteers pose as underage girls in Internet chat rooms to expose sexual predators. Several years ago, the group collaborated with an NBC reality television show, which records adults trying to meet minors for sex on video.
Raisley initially volunteered for Perverted Justice around 2004, but later became a vocal critic of its aggressive tactics, authorities said. In turn, the group's founder, Xavier Von Erck, said he had a volunteer pose as "Holly," an adult woman, to meet Raisley online.
"He fell for her," Von Erck said during a brief telephone interview today.
The articles report that Raisley stood waiting with flowers for "Holly" at an airport while a photographer snapped a picture that Von Erck posted on his website.
The articles that appeared in Radar Magazine in 2006 and Rolling Stone in July 2007 focused on the tactics of Perverted Justice and Raisley's feud and apparently embarrassing episode with "Holly."
Neither publication responded for requests seeking comment today.
The articles appeared on several other websites, including the Rick A. Ross Institute of New Jersey, which says it studies cults and controversial groups. The attacks began as early as September 2007, flooding the websites with enough traffic to slow them to nearly a crawl, authorities said.
With help from the United States Computer Emergency Response Team, the FBI traced the attacks to Raisley, authorities said. When agents searched his home in March, Raisley admitted writing the programs to attack the sites, according to the FBI's Newark office.
Raisley was released on $100,000 bond by U.S. District Magistrate Judge Patty Schwartz.
"In this situation, this type of cyber-bullying was used as a way to try to silence our media and deny them of their constitutional rights to the freedom of press," said Weysan Dun, head of the FBI's Newark office.