A federal court handed Barry Ardolf, a Minnesota resident initially accused of sending threatening emails to Vice President Joe Biden, a nearly twenty year prison sentence today based on multiple additional charges of identity theft, trafficking in child pornography, and generally being the kind of psychotic neighbor that only exists in horror films.
In August 2008, Matt and Bethany Kostolnik moved in next door to Ardolf. The next day, their four-year-old son ran next door while in sight of the mother, who was occupied briefly with her 18 month-old child. Ardolf, who was also outside, brought the child home but allegedly kissed him on the lips while doing so. The Kostolnik's reported
the incident to the police. Their neighbor, enraged by the incident, decided to get even in spectacular fashion.*
Ardolf hacked the Kostolnik's WEP-secured wireless network, created email accounts purportedly attached to Matt Kostolnik's person, and sent inappropriate emails to the man's co-workers knowing the missives would be traced back his neighbor's ISP. One of the emails contained pornographic images of minors Ardolf claimed were Matt's own children.
Not actually a real photo of Barry Ardolf--but it probably should be
Not content to keep things private, Ardolf created a MySpace profile under Kostolnik's name, uploaded the same images to it, and edited the 'About Me' section to include the following:
I bet my coworker that since I’m a lawyer and a darn great one that I could get away with putting up porn on my site here. I bet that all I have to do is say that there is plausible deniability since anybody could have put this on my site. Like someone hacked my page and added porn without my knowledge. This is reasonable doubt. I’m a darn good lawyer and I can get away with doing anything!
Other various activities included an attempt to convince Kostolnik's boss that he'd sexually harassed a woman, tire slashing, and the threat against Joe Biden's life that put Ardolf on the Secret Service's radar. Partial text of that enchanting letter included: "This is a terrorist threat! Take this seriously. I hate the way you people are spending money you don’t have.. I’m assigning myself to be judge[,] jury and executioner. Since you folks have spent what you don’t have[,] it’s time to pay the ultimate price. Time for new officials after you all are put to death by us."
Back in the good ol' days, crazy neighbors were considerate enough to keep their nutso in their own yard
The most amazing aspect of the entire case is Ardolf's decision to reject the aforementioned plea agreement that would've seen him cop to the Biden threat in exchange for a two year sentence. Now the man, who justifies his actions based on feeling 'victimized', will have the next decade and a half or so to deal with those feelings in an environment where he can't ruin anyone else's life.
On a practical note, Ardolf's actions are precisely why anyone with an online presence in this day and age should engage in a bit of judicial self-monitoring. We're scarcely advocating that anyone sign up for the dubious reputation-protection services that now exist, but a bit of personal Googling is a necessity.
*- When the police executed their warrant, they found evidence that Barry had perpetrated similar acts against previous neighbors. Other events triggering his rage included a home health care attendant parking across from his house. Once.