July 21, 2020

The Case Of The College Cyberstalker | Cup Of Joe

Others may cheer for their orange and black, or to other colors be true.
But we shall ever hold out love, for you our white and blue.

SUNY Geneseo School Song

This week, we head up to SUNY Geneseo in Livingston County -- the Finger Lakes region of New York. Situated at the south end of the five-county Rochester Metropolitan Area, it is an hour-and-a-half drive west from Syracuse and just over 5 hours from NYC. The picturesque campus embodies the classic feel of the older Northeastern colleges with brick walkways, shade trees, and ivy-draped buildings. It is place that resonates with a feeling of safety.

But sound structures and soothing surroundings do not serve as protection against predators that prowl the internet, and skulking stalkers slithering in the shadows along the cobble-stoned walkways of academia.

This is a nightmarish case about cyber-stalking in the aftermath of a college romance that should never have been, involving two young people from Long Island. The stalker was the son of an NYPD detective.

Here is what the judge heard.

Testimony Of Rebecca (Victim)

Q: What is the name of the individual who was harassing you?

A: Thomas Traficante. He is 23 years old. I met him at Geneseo. He was an accounting major. 

Q: You were also a student at the time?

A: Yes. And a member of Sigma Kappa…sorority.

Q: Thomas was your boyfriend?

A: For a while. Then I broke it off. And that is when everything started happening. Just before Christmas break.

Q: I know this is difficult, but can you tell us what he did to you?

A: This psycho targeted me and my sorority sisters at Geneseo – it was like a horror movie. He anonymously texted my friends that his goal was to create the most amount of turmoil and pain within greek life and that the outcome of his actions could be death. 

Q: And what specifically did Thomas do to you?

A: He sent cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana to my university address and then called the authorities in an attempt to have me expelled or arrested. Then he posted my contact information on a prostitution website, leading to about 60 contacts from random numbers all wanting to have sex with her. He changed my email address so he could log-in to my chemistry class, then submitting quizzes as “completed” before I had taken them." The quizzes ended up with scores of zero. He also texted me and my friends saying that "youre all crazy if you think im not still out there." That same day those friends, who were all members of Sigma Kappa, received a text message from Thomas stating "I'm in the house." 

Q: Were the police notified about that?

A: Yes. Local police came and searched the sorority house, but they didn’t find anything unusual.

Q: Did Thomas do anything to you outside of school?

A: He shot a window of my family’s home on Long Island from a car with a BB gun. He had said that his father was a cop and that, because of that, he could destroy my life…with impunity.

Q: Did Thomas have any other guns?

A: He told me that he had a semi-automatic AR-15 at his home that he said he used for target shooting. He said it was legal.

Q: As a result of these actions by Thomas, what did you do?

A: I told my parents and we reported Thomas to law enforcement. I was a wreck. I have considered changing my name and I constantly think about changing my phone number.

Testimony Of Thomas

Q: You threatened Rebecca with harm, didn’t you?

A: I would not have resorted to such violence.

Q: Well, you harassed another girl before Rebecca in the same manner, didn’t you?

THOMAS’ ATTORNEY: OBJECTION! Prior bad acts! That is inadmissible!

A: I was never charged with that?

JUDGE: SUSTAINED! That objection is sustained!

THOMAS’ ATTORNEY: Move to strike that answer, Your Honor.

JUDGE: GRANTED. That answer will be stricken from the record.

Q: Nothing else, Your Honor.


THOMAS’ ATTORNEY: Your Honor, may we approach the bench?

JUDGE: Come on up.

THOMAS' ATTORNEY: Your Honor, the prosecution has made an offer and we would like to accept that offer and plead GUILTY to Cyberstalking and distribution of a controlled substance. If Your Honor accepts that plea we would like to proceed directly to sentencing. In anticipation of taking the plea, we have already submitted a pre-sentence report, and we would respectfully request a short amount of time for a statement.

JUDGE: That is fine. I accept the plea. You may make a statement for the record, counsel.

THOMAS’ ATTORNEY: Thank you, Your Honor. We are requesting that Thomas be sentenced to probation. A psychiatrist who interviewed Thomas determined that, with treatment and medication, Thomas was very unlikely to engage in more crime. Thomas was in a master's degree program for accounting when he was arrested in this matter and he would like to continue on what appears to be a very promising future and being gainfully employed. 

PROSECUTION: Had Thomas not been caught, would he have graduated from shooting up a house and a car with a BB gun to something more serious? Thomas owned a firearm – there are legitimate concerns about how he might have used the firearm. Rebecca was not the only victim here: What about the Sig-Kaps? Those women were terrorized. Their parents were terrorized. Let the punishment fit the crime!

JUDGE: Thomas, had simply continued going to school — instead of stalking your former girlfriend, posting her contact information on a prostitution website, and trying to plant drugs in her college mailbox and get her arrested — you would have graduated this year with a master's degree in accounting. The guidelines recommended a sentence of 30 to 37 months. But those guidelines are not binding on me. "If you had a modicum of intelligence, you should know that what you did, repeatedly, was despicable." Your harassment spree was an inhumane display of psychological terrorism. And I find your actions to have been so horrific, that I am constrained to go beyond the guidelines.

Therefore, I sentence you to FOUR years imprisonment. This matter is adjourned!


And that’s that for Thomas. In court, Thomas apologized to his victims, their families and his own family. The judge was not moved.

Thomas’ father wrote in a letter to the court, "I'm sure someday my son will win back my trust." 

Thomas’ lawyer filed an appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals – the sentence was AFFIRMED.  Four years.  Let’s see what happens after that.

Here is the decision: https://www.courtlistener.com/pdf/2020/07/17/united_states_v._traficante.pdf

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