Jury convicts Washington woman of cyberstalking for harassing, threatening Montana man, public officials
MISSOULA — A jury today convicted a Washington woman of cyberstalking a Montana man she met online and public officials by hacking the man’s email and sending harassing and threatening communications, U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.
After a three-day trial, the jury found Kathy Ann Hendrickson, also known as Kathy Thorberg, 60, of Walla Walla, Washington, guilty of cyberstalking as charged in an indictment. Hendrickson faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. The trial began on Feb. 14.
U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy presided. Judge Molloy set sentencing for May 26. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Hendrickson was detained pending further proceedings.
“Hendrickson stole the victim’s personal information, hacked into his email account and then used her cell phone as a weapon to threaten and harass not only the victim but also public officials. Predators who try to hide their true identity on the internet to stalk innocent victims will be held fully accountable. I want to thank Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot and the FBI for investigating and prosecuting this case,” U.S. Attorney Johnson said.
In court documents and at trial, the government presented evidence that Hendrickson met the victim, identified as John Doe, on a dating website sometime in 2015 or 2016. The two communicated online and eventually met in person on several occasions at John Doe’s residence in Trout Creek. John Doe ended the relationship. John Doe strongly suspected Hendrickson of stealing his wallet. Hendrickson started harassing John Doe as early as May 2018 when, using an anonymous email account, sent John Doe an email stating, “I’m going to bring you down.” Hendrickson also called the Sanders County Sheriff’s Office and claimed John Doe was threatening her.
The government further alleged that Hendrickson obtained John Doe’s email password, hacked into his account and sent nasty messages to his friends and threatening messages to herself. Henderson forwarded the alleged threatening messages to the Sanders County Sheriff’s Office and asked for protection from John Doe. Hendrickson also used John Doe’s email account to send threatening messages to two Sanders County commissioners and a receptionist. The subject of the messages was “Death,” and contained messages including, “Your (sic) going to die.”
The harassment continued, the government alleged, and in January 2019, Hendrickson hacked John Doe’s email address and sent a threat to Montana’s then-Gov. Steve Bullock. The message read, “You are the worst Governor for our state. Do us all a favor and leave. Maybe best if you were terminated permantly (sic). A gun, which I have many will do the job. Be aware of your surroundings.”
Investigators identified Hendrickson as the suspect, executed a search warrant at her residence and seized her cell phone. A forensic examination of the phone found evidence relevant to Hendrickson’s stalking of John Doe, including an app that allows users to place calls that appear to be from numbers other than the number assigned to the phone. John Doe and his friends received dozens of prank calls during 2018 from numbers they did not recognize. Investigators also suspected Hendrickson was using a burner cell phone to send menacing emails from John Doe’s account. Hendrickson used the burner phone to call the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Yakima, Washington, and the FBI office in Richland, Washington, within days of the search of her residence and seizure of her actual phone and asked when her phone might be returned.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the FBI.