Judge sends message to community that use of Facebook cannot be taken lightly
Brian Tebuteb Palacios was slapped in federal court on Friday with a sentence of three years and five months imprisonment for his conviction of cyberstalking when he threatened, through Facebook messages, to rape and kill a woman and “smash” the face of her husband.
“The court emphasizes that the severe emotional distress that you caused was very real,” said U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona in imposing the high end of 41 months in the sentencing guidelines range on the 27-year-old Palacios.
Palacios was given credit for time served of 156 days. He has been in detention since he was arrested on Dec. 10, 2015.
Manglona noted that this is the first cyberstalking case in the CNMI and that she hopes it will be the last.
Palacios pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with cyberstalking, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, a one-year supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.
When Palacios committed the offense, he was under probation in Superior Court.
Manglona said the use of social media such as Facebook cannot be taken lightly.
Manglona said what Palacios did was quite disheartening and unbelievable.
“You used technology in a negative way,” the judge told Palacios.
Manglona said during a five- to six-month period, Palacios used different fictitious Facebook profiles in harassing and threatening not only this woman, but her husband, her family, and even his own “blood family.”
Manglona said Palacios wanted to be someone that the woman could trust by casting himself as her protector.
“All along it was you. What an ultimate betrayal!” the judge pointed out.
Manglona said it is important that Palacios will be examined for mental health issue.
After serving the prison term, Palacios will be placed on three years of supervised release.
During the supervised release, the defendants will be required to submit to drug testing, stay away from three victims, among other conditions.
Palacios was ordered to pay $100 in court assessment fee and restitution in the amount of $1,235.32 to one victim and $600 to the second victim.
Before the sentence was handed down, Palacios told the court that he was sincerely apologizing to the victims and to the whole community.
“I’m ashamed with my action,” Palacios said. His parents sat quietly in the courtroom.
Attorney Steven Pixley served as court-appointed counsel for Palacios.
According to special assistant U.S. attorney Mohammad Khatib, Palacios used Facebook, an online social networking website, to harass and intimidate the woman.
Khatib said the defendant did not use his real identify, used fake names and personas, and invented at least four fictitious Facebook profiles to accomplish his harassment and intimidation.
Palacios then used the fictitious Facebook profiles he invented to send multiple threatening Facebook messages to the woman and her family.
The Facebook messages, Khatib said, included threats to stalk, abduct, rape, shoot, and kill the woman.
One of the messages, the prosecutor said, threatened to “smash” the face of the woman’s husband.
Palacios’ harassment and intimidation began in April 2015 and continued through September 2015.
“This pattern of conduct had the deleterious effect of placing victim-1 (woman) in reasonable fear of death and serious bodily injury,” Khatib said, adding that such conduct also caused her to suffer substantial emotional distress.
The prosecutor said Palacios intentionally threatened and harassed the woman in order to cause her to be afraid, hoping to cast his actual self in the role of her protector, and thereby create a rift between her and her husband.
Khatib said Palacios also attempted to prevent and thwart a law enforcement investigation into his harassment and intimidation.
Khatib said using his actual Facebook profile, Palacios told the woman’s family not to report the threats and harassment to police.
The defendant also told the woman’s family to tell her not to report the harassment to police.