Good Friday turned out not to be a good day for Justin Shafer. The 37 year-old dental IT technician had been arrested on March 31 and charged with cyberstalking an FBI agent and the agent’s family under 18 U.S. Code § 2261A(2)(B). On April 14, he was taken back into custody, this time for violating release conditions. Shafer’s wife contacted DataBreaches.net with a terse, “Well, he’s gone again” message. It was becoming an all-too-common experience for her and their three young children.
On Friday, Shafer had informed DataBreaches.net that his pretrial services officer had told him that there appeared to be some problem with his ankle monitor and that he should come in to have it swapped out. According to Shafer’s wife, that was a trick to get him to come in so that they could detain him.
At a hearing yesterday, Magistrate Judge Renee H. Toliver of the Northern District of Texas ordered Shafer held for violating the conditions of his release. No court date has yet been set for trial on the cyberstalking charges, and Shafer is currently being held at the Kaufman County Jail.
When Shafer spoke to DataBreaches.net last week, he understood that he could not go on social media or participate on peer-to-peer platforms. But what about blogging? It seems possible that this blog post by Shafer, posted on the 14th, may have been the reason his release was revoked. In that post, Shafer makes a somewhat in-your-face comment to any authorities reading the post:
No comments allowed on this blog post, and blogger is NOT social media. It IS my first amendment right. You can take my facebook and twitter, but you will NOT take away my blog.
According to Shafer’s wife, the assistant public defender attempted to argue that the blog wasn’t “social media” at yesterday’s hearing. Judge Toliver reportedly rejected that argument, noting that she had been very clear with Shafer at the April 6 hearing that his computer was only to be used for work purposes.
The court didn’t take away Shafer’s blog yesterday. They took away his freedom. And some people are not surprised at all.
Shafer’s cyberstalking charges are the only charges filed against him at this time, but since May, 2016, he has been raided three times by the FBI and arrested twice. This site’s previous coverage of Shafer’s work law enforcement’s raids can be found from this link.
Update: The docket’s been updated, and I was correct in thinking that the blog post was key to his pretrial release being revoked. From the order:
Defendant has proven that the combination of very stringent conditions of release imposed in this case are insufficient to ameliorate the threat Defendant poses to the safety of the community and, in particular, to the alleged victim of the charged offense.
In any event, the Court finds that Defendant is unlikely to abide by any condition or combination of conditions of release the Court could impose. Compelling evidence of that fact are Defendant’s own words in the subject blog post — “Not allowed to get on Twitter or Facebook etc (anything to get out of jail, right?)” — and in an email to the Pretrial Services Officer when confronted about the post — “Blogger is not social media, and anyone telling me otherwise will be violating my first amendment speech.”
The docket’s final entry was a notice that this case, 3:17-mj-257 has been terminated and merged into 3:17-cr-239-N.