VANCOUVER – A British Columbia man convicted of criminally harassing his ex-wife through a revenge website that maligned her as a white supremacist, drug addict and child abuser has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison.
After time served is taken into account, Patrick Fox will spend just over 20 months in prison and be on probation for three years after his release.
Fox, 43, was found guilty by a jury in June of criminally harassing his former spouse Desiree Capuano through hundreds of threatening emails and the website, which also included photos of her son, her phone number and home address.
He was also found guilty of possessing firearms in a place he was not authorized to do so after he shipped four restricted handguns to California.
Fox was sentenced on Friday to three years for criminal harassment and 10 months for the firearms offence, to be served consecutively. He has also been banned from owning firearms for life.
Justice Heather Holmes of the B.C. Supreme Court said Fox made it his mission to make Capuano’s life miserable. The harassment caused Capuano to lose friends, have trouble keeping and finding a job, and damaged her relationship with her son, she said.
“Ms. Capuano felt isolated, beaten down, frustrated, powerless,” Holmes said. “Ms. Capuano questioned whether she had the strength to keep going. Evidently, it was only her inner strength that prevented Mr. Fox from achieving his stated goal of driving her to suicide.”
The judge also ordered Fox to have no contact with Capuano or her partner, as well as to remove the website within 24 hours of his release from prison and to not use the internet except for employment or for personal emails. He must surrender any passports and stay 100 metres from the U.S. border.
Capuano was in tears when reached by phone in Arizona where she lives, saying she was shocked and relieved at the news.
“I was fully expecting him to walk out of jail today,” she said through sobs. “I have spent many, many years fighting and fighting and losing the fight. It does feel now like I am getting help, like he is going to be forced to stop.
“I try not to ever be hopeful, because that leads to disappointment and I can’t handle much disappointment. But I do hope this is the beginning of the end.”
Capuano has also filed a defamation lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court against Fox, who denies he defamed her in his statement of defence. Court documents show that a judge ordered Fox to immediately remove the website last month. As of Friday, it remained online and a contempt hearing is scheduled for Nov. 30.
During the sentencing hearing Friday, Holmes said Fox has told the court he transferred ownership of the website to a third party and is not able to remove it.
The judge said Fox’s concept of the truth is “somewhat elastic and disingenuous.” She rejected his claim that the website was justified because Capuano had him deported from the Unites States without their teenage son.
She said Fox initiated most of the email exchanges with Capuano and also often copied their son, straining his relationship with his mother and likely causing him psychological harm.
In one email, he said he wanted to obtain intimate photos of her for the website, and mused about hiring someone to get close to her, sleep with her and take the photographs. In another, he described exactly how he would cross the border with his guns to shoot Capuano, the judge said.
Fox often included in the emails the caveat that he would never actually break the law, but Holmes said Capuano still had reason to fear for the safety of her family and herself.
Holmes said Fox had a “profound lack of insight” into his offending conduct.
In sentencing him to three years and 10 months, the judge accepted the Crown’s request for a nearly four-year sentence. Fox had asked for an absolute discharge.
Fox said at his sentencing hearing he planned to appeal the verdict.
Crown attorney Mark Myhre said outside court he hopes the sentence sends a message.
“If you set out to make somebody’s life miserable, if you make that your goal in life, you stand a really good chance of going to jail.”
— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.