July 26August 2, 2001
The man behind TerriTickle gets six months for misusing the Internet.
The judge called it “the troubling case of Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde.”
David DAmato, a meek, balding 40-year-old former high school educator, sat before federal Judge Douglas Woodlock in a Boston courtroom awaiting sentencing for the crimes of Terri DiSisto,
notorious tickling fetishist, Internet terrorist
and DAmatos alter ego who attacked Drexel Universitys computer system and harassed a student there.
The public persona, David DAmato, was “a remarkably successful citizen,” said the judge, an assistant principal and director of guidance at West Hempstead High School in New York. The other,
Terri DiSisto (a.k.a. TerriTickle), claimed to be a 23-year-old, perky blonde Boston College coed with a passion for watching videos of “HOT guys being tickled,” who anonymously stalked, harassed and intimidated young ticklish men on the Internet.
In exchange for hundreds of dollars in cash, new computer equipment and/or concert tickets, young men made videos for Terri. (CP, “Tickle Me Terry,” Feb. 5, 1998)
“As a hobby one that costs me A LOT of money I maintain the largest personal collection in the world of made-just-for-me amateur videos featuring GUYS BEING TIED UP AND TICKLED by a girlfriend, good girl friend, girlfriends, or even guy friends,” read TerriTickles solicitation.
But, as many ticklish guys soon discovered, making a video for Terri was just the beginning of a bizarre relationship.
In March, DAmato pleaded guilty to two federal misdemeanor charges of computer fraud and abuse for his role in disabling the network computer systems of three universities, including Drexel University (CP, “Whos Laughing Now?” April 5, 2001). He admitted that over the course of several years, he had terrorized and e-mail bombed hundreds of Internet users. In the case of the former Drexel student, DAmatos e-mail bombs to the university were spoofed to seem like they were sent from the students account, a retaliatory measure because he wanted to discontinue correspondence.
DAmato also testified that he was “under the care of a psychiatrist for a mental-health condition Internet addiction and job-related stress.”
FBI Special Agent Daniel Romanzo, who attended the sentencing, said “it was not an easy case.” DAmato was tracked down in June 2000 by following “high-tech as well as low-tech aspects.”
Published reports have detailed that
DAmato fabricated a Social Security number for Theresa DiSisto and
obtained a credit card in her name to conduct business over the Internet.
DAmatos lawyer called his actions “reprehensible,” but urged the court to consider the whole David DAmato. On his behalf, colleagues and friends of DAmato submitted letters to the judge testifying to his professional and personal competence.
More than a dozen of TerriTickles Internet victims also submitted letters to the judge attesting to the emotional harm they suffered at the receiving end of TerriTickles wrath.
Right before the sentence was handed down, DAmato stood up and addressed the court. “Your honor, I would like to express my remorse and sorrow.” He apologized to his mother and father, who were present, and to “every person in this courtroom who may have been impacted” by his actions. Finally, he pleaded for “mercy and compassion.”
Also in the courtroom were two young men who had been among TerriTickles victims, including the former Drexel student who, as an 18-year old freshman, had his life turned upside-down by TerriTickles assaults. He declined the opportunity to address the court concerning his experiences, but was relieved that his ordeal had come to an end.
“I never thought Id see this day,” he said. Facing his former tormenter, he said he felt only “pathos and pity.”
DAmato was sentenced to six months incarceration in a halfway house and fined $5,000. He had already made restitution to the universities whose computer servers he damaged. DAmato begins his sentence next month, in time for him to commute to law school at FordhamUniversity.
Many in the Internet community were disappointed that the sentence was so lenient. DAmato had faced a maximum of two years in jail and $200,000 in fines.
“In my view, justice has not been served,” said Charles Dirksen, a San Francisco lawyer who collected the virtual testimony from TerriTickles victims. “It was a mere slap on the wrist and doesnt show an appreciation for the harm he caused. Nor does it deter future abuse.”
“Its scary that thats all he got,” said one college student who was harassed by DAmato. “And its really scary that hes going to law school.”
Moreover, his victims say theyre disturbed that no legal restrictions are placed on DAmatos Internet access. “Its scary he can use the Internet,” says the former Drexel student.
And apparently TerriTickle still lives on in cyberspace. S/he has an Internet radio channel that broadcasts audio files of young men being tickle and tortured and talking about being tickled at www.live365.com/stations/136316. Created in August 2000 and last updated June 27, 2001 by a territickle of Boston, the sites broadcaster profile claims she is “a recent female graduate of a Boston college. Ive been totally into TICKLISH GUYS and GUYS BEING TICKLED for as long as I can remember ”
The stations playlist features “Tickle Torture” sessions that feature the howls and grotesque laughter of merciless tickling, interspersed with young men answering a questionnaire about their tickling experiences.
Interested parties are directed to her website, www.ticklishguys.com. “Please pay a visit. Its legit and a deal may be available for you 🙂 Many industry and private references are available. This is not an ad just an invitation.”