A San Diego man was found guilty Monday of 27 felony counts for creating a so-called revenge porn website, where he posted more than 10,000 sexually explicit photos of women online to extort them for hundreds of dollars each.
It took a court clerk 20 minutes to read the list of convictions against 28-year-old Kevin Bollaert, guilty of 21 identity theft and 6 extortion counts. A mistrial was declared on one conspiracy count and one identity theft count.
In the debate over whether Bollaert should walk free until his sentencing, Deputy Attorney General Tawnya Austin told the judge he should go back to jail, not because he is a flight risk, but because of the harm he could do to the 26 victims involved in the case.
"He is a vindictive individual who takes pleasure out of harming people," she said. "That's what the evidence has sussed out. And his tool of destruction happens to be the one thing that we cannot easily monitor. That is his area of expertise."
Bollaert's defense attorney Emily Rose-Weber argued it would be good to see how he lives his life between now and his sentencing, living with his parents and perhaps holding down a good job. She asked that the court only put restrictions on his release.
The judge ordered Bollaert be remanded in custody and held on a $450,000 bail.
The case — the first of its kind, filed by the California attorney general — centered on a now defunct website called YouGotPosted.com, created by Bollaert so ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends could submit embarrassing photos of victims for revenge. The photos also linked to victims’ social media accounts.
Prosecutors say those who wanted to get the pictures taken down were redirected to another one of Bollaert's sites, ChangeMyReputation.com. There, the victims were charged $300 to $350 to have their photos removed.
Bollaert also instructed victims to submit another picture of themselves holding a sign with their birth date on it.
Austin called the scheme a “blood sport” that left victims distraught and desperate.
While she did not dispute that her client created the websites, Rose-Weber said the business was not illegal — though it may be “immoral” or “sleazy.” She described Bollaert as an aspiring web developer who hopes to start a business in the technology industry.
Now, Bollaert faces up to 20 years in prison at his sentencing.
The revenge porn case has been called a landmark one, for California is the first state to prosecute someone for posting humiliating pictures of others online.
In a statement, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris called the crimes such as the ones Bollaert committed "horrendous."
“Bollaert’s actions are illegal and they will not be tolerated in California," Harris said. "And if you run a website like this, you’re going to go to prison. Just because you’re sitting behind a computer, committing what is essentially a cowardly and criminal act, you will not be shielded from the law or jail."
In 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that prohibits anyone from putting identifiable nude photos online after a breakup, punishable with $1,000 or six months in jail.