The Athens Review
WAXAHACHIE — An Ellis County jury on Wednesday found Joseph Dauben, 31, guilty of fraudulent use of identifying information.
The former web blog and online newspaper publisher was accused of publishing personal information about an individual and encouraging harmful acts against the individual.
The jury recommended a punishment of community supervision with a possible one year in prison and a $2,400 fine.
On Thursday, Ellis County Judge Bob Carroll of the 40th Judicial District Court sentenced Dauben to five years community supervision pending his release from confinement. His sentence and fine are on suspension unless he violates his probation terms.
However, Dauben will not be released on probation, because he has charges pending conviction in Navarro County. The Ellis County Sheriff's Office will transfer him to Navarro County, where he will await his trial scheduled for Jan. 7 on three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, and one count of indecency with a child, all second-degree felonies.
In the Ellis County case against Dauben, District and County Attorney Patrick Wilson showed evidence that Dauben had listed a victim’s full legal name, date of birth and place of employment and encouraged harmful acts against him, acts worthy of a state felony charge.
Wilson quoted comments Dauben made on his blog including, “I swear someone will die if you touch either of those two girls again […] Some day someone will take justice into their own hands and put a stop to this continued crime.”
Wilson interviewed the victim on the stand and asked him how all of these threats and comments Dauben made him feel. The victim responded, “I was afraid someone was going to come after me or harm my family.”
Lt. Rick Florez with the Red Oak Police Department testified that the victim’s ex-wife had accused him several times of molestation and each time had their children brought to the Ellis County Child Advocacy Center (Gingerbread House) for a forensic interview.
“About the second or third time, in four months they (Gingerbread House) said they wouldn’t do anymore interviews due to the prolonged trauma of subjecting the girls to investigation and questioning,” Florez said. “When the boyfriend (of the ex-wife) filed the fourth complaint we began investigating them for false reports.”
Attorney Damon Fehler stated in Dauben’s defense that Dauben had published an apology letter on the blog after finding that the ex-wife was under investigation for the false accusations.
“Sure he made an apology, after (the victim’s) attorney told him to stop,” Wilson argued. “But the harm had already been done.”
Fehler said that the ex-wife was the one guilt of fraudulent use of identifying information by supplying it to Dauben who published the information on his online blog, the Ellis County Observer. Wilson contended that Dauben chose to publish the information online.
“This blog is owned by Joseph Dauben, all of the content on this website goes through his fingers and into cyberspace. He was supplied that information in an offline interview and put it online,” he said.
In his closing remarks, Wilson said that Dauben was not a newspaper publisher reporting a news article, but a vigilante holding a diatribe against the victim on the Ellis County Observer blog.
“This is a guy in Mabank, Texas hiding behind a computer in grandma’s house calling for a ‘public execution […] only amplified by my own comments,’” Wilson said, quoting Dauben. “If you type (the victim’s) name and city into a search engine this is what you will find. Dauben intended to harm his reputation, standing in the community and cause physical harm.”
The jury had the option of setting Dauben’s punishment at a maximum of five years in prison or minimum of 180 days with the option of probation, because it was Dauben’s first felony charge.
Wilson encouraged the jury to give Dauben probation, but assess a maximum punishment of five years and a fine of $5,000 to “force him to be a productive member of society.”
“Give him the maximum hammer to hang over his head, so if he violates his supervision the court has the flexibility to give him up to the maximum five years. If you give him the minimum sentence of 180 days, no matter how he breaks his supervision, even if he commits another crime, the court can only give him 180 days jail time. And I suggest a hefty fine, at least $5,000 to obligate him to get out of grandmother’s house and work and be a productive member of society.”
Dauben’s probation comes with a laundry list of conditions, most of them forbidding him to use the Internet for anything except employment-related searches and email. He has to submit to email monitoring at his own expense, and delete all social media, blog and web sites he owns.