Fantasies on Internet

This collection of e-mail messages is from the "interesting-people" list that is managed by David Farber, Univ. of Pennsylvania. It concerns the alleged use of a newsgroup posting by a student at the University of Michigan to espress his fantasies regarding a female student of his acquaintance. His actions and the response by the university authorities and ultimately by the FBI raise interesting questions about the status of electronic postings in the whole domain of freedom of expression and even more on the control required by those who operate newsgroups! I suspect that this story will go on for some time; I will attempt to keep this collection up-to-date.


By Judson Branam
c. The Ann Arbor NEWS

A University of Michigan student ousted from his dorm room and suspended by President James J. Duderstadt after posting violent sex fantasies about another student on the Internet expects to know by Monday if he can return to class. Jake Baker, a sophomore linguistics major, was suspended Thursday after a campus investigation of his Internet submissions, especially a story that named a female student in its title and in scenes of rape, torture and mutilation.

Baker was not expelled - as was reported in The News Friday - but was suspended by Duderstadt under a bylaw of the U-M Board of Regents that allows the president to take emergency action to maintain order on campus. Duderstadt's action included removing Baker from the university computer system, barring him from university property and changing the lock on his East Quad dorm room.

Duderstadt orders only one or two such suspensions per year, said David Cahill, Baker's attorney.

In a letter delivered by campus police as Baker left a class on Thursday, Cahill said, Duderstadt suspended Baker for the remainder of the current winter term, and further stated that he can only be reinstated by order of the president.

Baker and Cahill met Friday with university housing officials and made an offer designed to keep Baker in school. If Baker is allowed to return to classes and to keep his part-time job on North Campus, Cahill said, the student is willing to follow several conditions, including:

Baker said early Friday that he had met with campus and law enforcement officials and had undergone psychiatric evaluation "to show them they had no threat from me."

Cahill said John Heidke, associate director of student residence operations, is expected to notify him of a decision by Monday.

"If they buy this," Cahill said, "then we would give up our right to a formal hearing within seven days and let this thing work itself out more deliberately."

Cahill said he didn't mention the possibility of reinstating Baker's U-M computer account if he's allowed to return to class.

On Friday, calls to Heidke's office were referred to U-M spokeswoman Lisa Baker, who said only that Jake Baker - no relation - is not a student at U-M.

"Even if the person were a student at Michigan, "she added, "I wouldn't be able to talk about student records because of FERPA."

The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act bars university officials from discussing any student records.

The first complaint about Baker's story - which carried a disclaimer that it contained "a lot of sick stuff" and was filed in an area reserved for sex stories - was reportedly made by a U-M alumnus living in Moscow. After reading the U-M computer address on the story, that man contacted U-M computer officials.

The FBI also is looking into the matter to determine whether it violates distribution of obscene material laws.

The Internet is a global computer network originally developed as a U.S. Defense Department data storehouse. It was later taken over by computer users on college campuses and is now the main strand of the so-called "Information Superhighway."


From: (Jason Gull)

UofMich student expelled for "obscene" story on Net

Date: 4 Feb 1995 20:14:29 GMT
Organization: University of Michigan

The local (Ann Arbor, MI) paper ran a story yesterday regarding a sophomore at the University of Michigan (whose name is Baker, I believe) who was expelled yesterday (or Thursday) as a result of a story he "transmitted on the Internet."

The story the student wrote apparently involved the brutal rape and torture of a woman. The name of the woman in the story is also the name of another student on campus, which seems to have been the spark that got the kid kicked out. The story seems to have been in one of the USENET groups, because according to the paper, the story was first brought to the attention of University officials by an alumnus -- an attorney in Moscow who just happened to spot the story on USENET. The irony of the fact that this morality-policeman in Moscow was scouring the groups is apparently lost on the Ann Arbor News.

What is truly frightening, and deserving of more coverage in the news, is that the FBI is now investigating this kid, and an agent in the local FBI office has officially stated that they're contemplating federal obscenity charges against him. Remember, this isn't pictures/video he's accused of sending, it's purely text. (Raunchy, disgusting text, I'm sure, but plain 'ol ASCII).

Anyone have any other news on this? (I'll post more when I find it.)

Jason Gull

Date: Sat, 4 Feb 95 16:57:04 EST
from: [ removed by djf]

true or false?

What you have is the story printed in Friday's Ann Arbor News. Today the paper corrected the story to say that he wasn't expelled, he was suspended. They expect a decision on his future status at the University on Monday. I believe the rest of the story is pretty accurate. In a TV interview last night, he said he didn't really know the woman he named. She was in a class with him last year, and he remembered her name. I wouldn't make a big case out of it until we see what the Univ does. Frankly, I think she should sue him. Also, I think he is just sick. I wouldn't make a big freedom of speech issue out of it; he doesn't deserve it.

Date: Sun, 5 Feb 1995 00:44:54 -0500
Subject: Re:

Internet Sex Writer Awaits Decision -- final for now.

What a slimeball. That poor woman. My question is, what would happen if someone did this in print -- that is, managed to get these fantasies past a cadre of editors and had them printed as a story in the campus newspaper and they were distributed publicly? I don't think this is a first amendment issue, or even a pornography issue, though I'm not sure. Since the victim (and I use the term advisedly) is not a public figure, are there laws regarding violation of privacy? Harrassment? Slander? So what if they were fantasies ... if I read something like that and it was about me, I'd certainly feel violated. What I mean to say is, what would legally stop a newspaper from printing something like that, with someone's name in it? And would the same laws apply here?

Date: Sat, 4 Feb 1995 20:02:04 -0500
From: (David Farber)

Internet Sex Writer Awaits Decision -- final for now.

I have very little sympathy with the writer on his choice of material or victim. I do worry that it is a short step to suspending someone this or for politically incorrect writings -- supporting a radical right or left cause or for that matter saying very bad things re the administration.

Just where does on draw the line? I am happy to collect and summarize people's considered opinions on where that line gets drawn in cyberspace and distribute them as a summary to IP. Please mark as to whether they are anonymous or attributed.


Date: Tue, 7 Feb 1995 20:59:52 -0500
From: (David Farber)

Censorship at U of Michigan

Sorry for more of this but I both found this a good overview and after reading the UofM rules (chase down gopher:// ) believe the President violated the rules the administration set (in spirit if not really in fact).

I do NOT like what the student did. I DO NOT defend his actions but we are a nation of laws. Going outside the law and above the law seems particularly inappropriate for institutions that are surposed to transmit the spirit of the nation to its youth.


From: (Peter Swanson)

University of Michigan Student Suspended for Pornographic Writing on Net

For those who haven't already heard, a student here at UM was summarily suspended last week after posting a violent story to the newsgroup Here is his story, as best I understand it from newspaper accounts.

The student, Jake Baker, wrote a sexually violent story and posted it to the newsgroup. Though I haven't read the story myself, the Michigan Daily reports that it involved "torturing a woman with a hot curling iron, and mutilating and sodomizing her while she is gagged to a chair". Unfortunately for Mr. Baker, he used his own account to post the article, and used the name of a female student in one of his classes as the victim.

A UM alumnus in Moscow read the story, and complained to the University President's office about its content. The President, James Duderstadt, summarily suspended the student without a hearing, despite a student court system on campus. Duderstadt cited Regents' Bylaw 2.01, which gives the president the power to maintain the "health, diligence, and order among the students." Mr. Baker was notified of his suspension on 2/1/95 by several armed police officers, who took him to his dorm room for clothes, and then escorted him to the edge of campus with instructions not to set foot on university property. Mr. Baker is now living in a hotel room off campus.

The FBI is also investigating Baker for violation of federal anti-obscenity laws, under the new computer-trafficking pornography law.

Duderstadt claimed that Baker presented an immediate threat to the female student, and required immediate removal from campus. It should be noted that Baker has never even spoken to the female student, or threatened her in any way aside from this story. (perhaps someone can repost the story to this thread, so we all know what the big deal is? The story was apparently called "Pamela's Ordeal", posted 1/9/95.) The female student (her name was mentioned in local news stories) apparently was unaware of the existence of the story until interviewed. The local press reports that Baker has never been in trouble with the law or the university before.

According to university spokesperson Lisa Baker, "It's not the policy of the university to punish people for pornographic messages. There are other issues around this that I can't discuss." University law professor and "constitutional scholar" Catharine Mackinnon has called the issue not one of free speech, but of violence against women. As Capt. James Smiley of the Department of Public Safety put it, "He was asked to leave and he's outta here." No questions asked.

Since the story was leaked to the press, the administration has scheduled a hearing this Thursday, 2/9/95, to determine whether he poses a threat. This hearing will be closed to the public, and although he is allowed to have an advisor (who may be an attorney), he must represent himself. (That is, he may not be represented by an attorney.) The standard of evidence used will be "clear and convincing", as opposed to "beyond a reasonable doubt" used in the US justice system.

Civil liberties groups, including the ACLU and Student Civil Liberties Watch, are upset over the university's actions. The ACLU has a case pending against the university regarding the closed hearings and lack of legal representation for the defendant. In one recent hearing which was apparently only opened under pressure from the ACLU and press, a single administrator acted as prosecutor, mediator, and advisor to the jury; the defendant was openly ridiculed by university representatives and railroaded into a conviction. After another recent (closed) hearing which found the defendant guilty of stalking, the plaintiff was charged with leaking the story to the campus newspaper. Participants in the hearings are not allowed access to transcripts of the hearings, and in the one open hearing recording devices and cameras were not allowed. The university cites FERPA as forcing them to hold closed hearings on non-academic conduct, even though lawsuits at other universities have demonstrated that this is not the case.

Given such a track record, it does not appear that Mr. Baker has much of a chance; the university hearing system has been called a "kangaroo kourt" in the local press.

The ACLU has raised the questions of why the university waited so long to act (3 weeks) if Mr. Baker is such a threat, why the university considers him a threat if they hadn't investigated or interviewed him, why the university did not follow due process in the first place, and why the university would hold a hearing to consider reinstating him if he is considered too dangerous to walk on university property.

I would provide references, but the Michigan Daily and Detroit Free Press are not available online. The people mentioned in this article all have email addresses which may be found by fingering their names . The story has appeared in AP, so you might find it online somewhere.

| Peter J. Swanson | | | PhD Candidate | controls specialist | | Electrical Engineering:Systems | impact, chaotic motion, | | University of Michigan | vibratory part orientation |

Students' Civil Liberties Watch A student group at the University of Michigan

Contacts: Ethan Kirschner -

Vincent Keenan -


The Students' Civil Liberties Watch (SCLW) denounces the University of Michigan's actions against sophomore Jake Baker, who was suspended on Thursday, February 2. The administration suspended Baker under University of Michigan Regents' Bylaw 2.01, which gives the President of the University authority for "the maintenance of health, diligence, and order among the students." The University has claimed that Baker's January 9 post on a USENET internet mail group poses a threat to student order. Baker has a closed administrative hearing on Thursday, February 9, and could be expelled from the University of Michigan.

The USENET post consisted of a graphic and violent sexual story about a University of Michigan woman whom he named. Baker included a disclaimer, stating that what he wrote was "sick stuff" and a "story". He had never spoken to the woman, a student in one of his classes.

Proving that Baker is a threat to student order will be difficult for the University. Baker posted the story on January 9, and was suspended almost a month later. In that time, Baker did not show an intention to contact the University of Michigan woman. Regents' Bylaw 2.01 is intended for use in situations of immediate emergency. The post was made to an internet news group to which one must subscribe, not to a general mail service. It was brought to the administration's attention by a University alumnus living in Moscow. It includes an explicit disclaimer, indicating that this was only a story, neither a factual account nor a future plan.

The SCLW affirms that in order to preserve our liberties, oftentimes we must defend reprehensible choices by questionable individuals exercising those rights. We firmly advocate public contempt as a response to actions like Baker's. The University, however, has no legal basis for its claims, and has violated the spirit of the Bylaw. In addition, this behavior is not punishable under the current Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities. We are further concerned about Baker's rights to free speech, due process, and legal representation at the February 9 administrative hearing.

If Baker had physically assaulted this woman, the University's response would have been within the established Statement procedure. The University reacted more harshly in this incident than if there had been a physical assault. The SCLW is concerned that this case involves the regulation of student thought and expression. Further, despite the University's claims that the SSRR promotes standardization of procedure and due process, President James J. Duderstadt chose to override SSRR policy, although the SSRR itself contains provisions for emergencies on campus. The SSRR is extremely controversial, for several reasons: it does not allow students legal representation; it allows statements made in University Proceedings to be used in a criminal or civil proceeding, forcing students not to participate in order to safeguard their rights in that court; there is no subpoena power, although the use of affidavits against the accused is permitted; and it applies to offenses committed off campus. The SCLW, composed entirely of University of Michigan students, demands that the University defend its actions in the Jake Baker case.

Ethan Kirschner, SCLW Chair Vincent Keenan, Students' Rights Commission Chair of the Michigan Student Assembly Anne Marie Ellison Pamela Short

Date: Fri, 10 Feb 1995 16:04:45 -0500 From: (David Farber) Subject: FBI Arrests Baker



By Josh White
The Michigan DAILY

In what could be a precedent-setting case for Internet communications law, FBI agents arrested LSA sophomore Jake Baker yesterday on charges stemming from e-mail messages and Internet postings he had written in the last two months.

Abraham Jacob Alkhabaz, also known as Jake Baker, was arraigned in U.S. District Court following his 1 p.m. arrest at his attorney's office in Ann Arbor. U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas A. Carlson denied bail for Baker, who was admitted to the Wayne County jail at 6 p.m. as a federal prisoner. Baker goes by his mother's name, instead of Alkhabaz.

U.S. Attorney Saul A. Green said in a statement that Baker has been charged with criminal "transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of a communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another."

A further hearing is scheduled for tomorrow in the U.S. District Court on Lafayette Street in Detroit, where prosecutors will ask for bail to be set at $100,000, said Sam Hutchins, who works in the Detroit U.S. Attorney's Office.

Baker was denied bail because Carlson deemed him a threat to society.

University officials met yesterday in a hearing to discuss Baker's suspension from school. The hearing lasted until 5:30 p.m., when officials postponed proceedings until next week. Baker, due to his arrest, was unable to attend.

University President James J. Duderstadt suspended Baker after learning of the Internet messages.

The federal charge against Baker carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, Hutchins said. He also said that this case is the first of its kind.

"As far as this office can determine, there is no precedent for a case that involves Internet," Hutchins said. "This case will probably break new legal ground."

David Cahill, Baker's attorney, will not represent Baker in the criminal case because he does not do criminal work. "We're in the process of retaining a criminal law specialist who does federal work," he said.

Cahill continues to support Baker in the case.

"I think its been blown completely out of proportion," Cahill said. "Nothing's happened. It's admitted that nothing's happened."

Cahill said he will continue to counsel Baker for the University's suspension hearing, and will act as an advisor for the criminal case.

FBI Special Agent Greg Stejskal filed the official complaint against Baker. He said in an affidavit that federal agents were alerted to the case after Department of Public Safety officers discovered questionable messages in Baker's e-mail account. Officers were originally led to Baker after a University alum in Moscow found a sexual fantasy Baker had posted on the Internet.

Baker signed a letter of consent that authorized DPS to search his belongings, including his computer files. He also initially waived his Miranda rights.

DPS came across a posted Internet message in which Baker described the "desire to commit acts of abduction, bondage, torture, mutilation, sodomy, rape and murder of young women" according to Stejskal's statement. The Internet message specifically named a female University student, who was in Baker's Japanese class during fall semester.

Stejskal said the female is aware of Baker's message about her and that she is "frightened and intimidated by it."

The female student's father told The Michigan Daily last night that he did not want to comment on the case.

"This is her situation," her father said in a telephone interview from his home. "She's a big girl. She takes care of herself. That's all I care to say about it."

Cahill said a psychologist in Ohio who examined Baker on Tuesday determined that he was not a threat to himself or others.

"We had a local psychiatrist who said the same thing. Fantasies are not threats," Cahill said.

Charges against Baker come in large part from the uncovering of e-mail messages he sent to an Ontario man identified as Arthur Gronda, the court affidavit said.

Following the initial DPS investigation, Baker signed consent forms that allowed DPS "to search and/or access his room, personal papers and computer files,"the affidavit says. In searching his e-mail account, DPS found messages in which "Baker and Gronda discuss actually getting together to commit the acts Baker had previously depicted and transmitted."

In one of the letters sent to Gronda, Baker described taking action on fantasies he had created.

"I don't want any blood in my room, though I have come upon an excellent method to abduct a bitch," Baker wrote. "As I said before, my room is right across from the girl's bathroom. Wiat (sic) until late at night, grab her when she goes to unlock the door. Knock her unconscious, and put her into one of those portable lockers (forgot the word for it), or even a duffle bag. Then hurry her out to the car and take her away...what do you think?"

In a preface to a previous transmission, with an unnamed victim, Baker wrote, "Torture is foreplay, rape is romance, and snuff is climax."

The FBI and Canadian authorities are currently investigating the case.


Note: Daily Staff Reporter Ronnie Glassberg and Editor in Chief Michael Rosenberg contributed to this report.

Date: Sat, 11 Feb 1995 14:27:20 -0500
From: (David Farber)

explanation and view

Sometimes I tend to focus on an issue and may seem to be being an "activist" on it. I have my personal opinions which I sometimes state. But the reason I focus on an issue is when I believe the issue will raise a serious set of questions re the NII/GII and its future.

For example the U Mich case may raise a set of international issues re the flow of information and the ability of the US to impose it's views and culture on the world. It also raises some interesting consitutional issues which could impact the future of the NII. The distance between threats to a person alleged in the Mich case and anti-semetic babbling that come on the net is not, in my view , a big one. Is a threat to a group equivalant to one to a person? Shall we control both? Is a message calling for the overthrow of the government forbidden?

I think these questions will last beyond Michigan and may impact the future of Cyberspace.

Anyway just why I do it.


Ann Arbor News on Thursday, 3/2/95:

"Jake Baker, the U-M student who is being held without bond in a federal prison for posting a torture, rape and murder fantasy on the Internet computer network, learned Wednesday that a trial date has been set April 3 before U. S. District Court Judge Avern Cohn in Detroit. Baker has been charged with transmitting threats across state lines. The 20-year-old Ohio native's appeal of his bond has not been decided yet at the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of appeals in Cincinnati. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Detroit, said that decision could be made today or tomorrow."

Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review
Michigan Law School
625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

**** Beyond Jake Baker: Policing the Internet *****
**** Speech, Privacy, and the New Media *****

For Immediate Release
Friday, March 3, 1995
Contact: Jeff Whitley, Public Relations Coordinator
Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review
University of Michigan Law School
(313) 764-4181, email:

Ann Arbor -- The Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review will host a panel discussion entitled "Beyond Jake Baker: Policing the Internet" on March 9, 1995 at the University of Michigan Law School, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. A panel of nationally known scholars and advocates will discuss the legal, social and political questions related to the Jake Baker Incident.

The prosecution of University of Michigan undergraduate Jake Baker for internet-related activities has sparked a controversy which raises important issues regarding the extension of law and policy to evolving technologies. The panel will discuss many of these issues including: First Amendment rights and protected speech; the basis for federal regulation of interactive communications; privacy rights; and obscenity, harassment and community values. The panelists will also address the unique position of universities as essential providers and regulators of access to the these new technologies. The future of this new medium, which has the potential to profoundly impact the development of modern society, will ultimately depend on the legal framework which emerges from the current debate.

The panel will consist of the following national figures: Catherine MacKinnon, Professor of Law at the University of Michigan; Scott Charney, Chief of the Computer Crimes Division of the U.S. Department of Justice; Barry Steinhardt, Associate Director o f the National ACLU and head of its Cyber Liberties Task Force; Danny Weitzner, Deputy Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology; and Virginia Rezmierski, of the University of Michigan's Information Technology Division. The panel's moderator will be Donald Lively, a law professor specializing in First Amendment and communications law at the University of Toledo.

The Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review is committed to using interactive media to promote informed discourse about the interrelated legal, social, and public policy issues raised by emerging technologies. The MTTLR will be providing legal analysis, updates and a forum for response to these issues via the internet and the Lexis legal database system. A transcript of the proceedings from the panel discussion along with other information regarding the case will be available on the MTTLR's World Wide Web homepage.

In the end, the charges against Jake were dropped. A series of summaries of the case are available at:

Last updated 95/08/25