Man charged in ‘revenge porn’ case in Fort Worth
12/21/2013 6:52 PM
12/21/2013 6:54 PM
The disturbing text messages began popping up May 29, while the Fort Worth woman was out with a friend.
They were the latest, she said, from an ex-boyfriend whom she had broken up with three weeks earlier and who had been harassing her in the weeks since.
This time, he was falsely accusing her of being out with another man. He then threatened to email out videos of the couple engaged in sexual acts. To add credence to his threat, he forwarded her two clips of the couple engaged in sex — videos that, until then, she didn’t even know existed.
“I was just ignoring him,” the 28-year-old woman told the Star-Telegram in a phone interview days after the incident. “I had no clue that he would actually do this.”
Around 2 a.m., as she slept, he sent one last text message.
“Have a good morning,” it read, according to the woman.
Fort Worth police believe Philip Welch Ingram hacked into his ex-girlfriend’s email and followed through with his threat. The explicit videos were sent to more than 100 of the woman’s email contacts — including family members, friends, her employer, professional associates and members of a philanthropic club to which the woman belongs.
“My parents actually came to my house around 5:30 a.m. and woke me up because my dad had received the email,” the woman said.
On Thursday, Ingram was indicted by a Tarrant County grand jury on charges of improper photography/visual recording and breach of computer security, both state-jail felonies punishable by up to two years in state jail and a $10,000 fine.
Warrants were issued Friday for Ingram’s arrest with bail set at $1,500 on each case. Ingram surrendered on the warrants Saturday and was immediately released on bail, according to county court records.
“I didn’t even know that those videos and pictures existed,” said the woman, who is not being identified by the Star-Telegram because of the nature of the crime. “I’m just horrified and humiliated. This is not right.”
Ingram and his attorney, Mark Daniel, declined to comment.
‘It’s best called
Dubbed “revenge porn,” the distribution or posting of explicit photos or videos of an individual over the Internet without the subject’s permission has become a growing trend.
A survey by computer security company McAfee, released in February, found 1 in 10 ex-partners have threatened that they would expose risque photos of their ex online. Nearly 60 percent of the time, these threats were carried out, the survey found.
Last week, a San Diego man was arrested for allegedly running a revenge porn site that posted more than 10,000 sexually explicit photos. Officials allege that Kevin Bollaert, 27, also extorted money from the victims through a second website in which he offered to remove the photographs for a fee of up to $350.
He is charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identify theft and extortion.
“It’s best called cyber rape,” said John Morgan, a Beaumont attorney who is representing some two dozen woman in a lawsuit filed against a different revenge porn website, its host, and those allegedly responsible for uploading intimate photographs of the women without their consent.
“I don’t use the word just because it has shock value but I really think that’s what it’s closest to. … The effect upon their lives is huge.” Morgan said. “Once a photo is in cyber space, I can shut down sites, but I can’t guarantee that those pictures aren’t going to show up again and again. You’re looking at women who for the rest of their lives have the knowledge that intimate photos from when they were younger exist in cyber space.”
The fight against
Legislators across the country have been slow to catch up to this cyber threat.
Currently, only New Jersey and California have laws specifically aimed at revenge porn.
In New Jersey, lawmakers have made it a third-degree crime punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison to disclose any explicit photograph or recordings without consent. In California, it is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to six months in jail for someone to publish, without consent, pornographic material that they had taken of someone.
In other states, law enforcement agencies either try to prosecute offenders using laws already on the books, or, in some cases, tell victims there’s nothing they can do, leaving some to pursue civil litigation.
A Florida woman, who changed her name to Holly Jacobs after intimate photos shared with a former boyfriend made their way on the Internet, sued her ex, who has denied posting the photographs. The lawsuit is still pending. Jacobs also created a website, www.endrevengeporn.org, that includes a petition pushing for lawmakers to make it a felony for individuals to pose private nude photographs or videos of others without their permission.
Morgan, filing a suit on behalf of some two dozen woman, didn’t just go after the men uploading the intimate photographs but also the revenge porn website, called Texxxan.com, where the woman’s images had been uploaded and the website’s host, GoDaddy.com. The revenge porn website has since been taken down, but the lawsuit remains pending.
While pornography is protected under the First Amendment, Morgan argues that uploading such images should be considered illegal because it was done without the women’s consent. He said legal pornography also has record-keeping requirements, including age verification.
“In this situation, these are all just stolen photos and images,” Morgan said.
Morgan said some of the photos of his clients had been taken in the context of marriage. Others were taken by the women themselves but never shared. And in others, the women were not aware the photographs or images even existed.
“People criticize the young woman. You hear the word ‘slut,’ which is so disrespectful,” Morgan said. “What bothers me is that nobody in the public criticizes the men — the mostly young men — who think this is funny. What happened to their values? Someone has to say this is not acceptable. A real man, a person with character, is not going to do this.”
A relationship that
ended in chaos
In the Fort Worth case, the woman had begun dating Ingram in the summer of 2012 and by December of that year Ingram had basically moved in with the woman. Three months later, however, the relationship had begun to deteriorate as Ingram grew possessive and jealous, even after moving to Midland in late March to begin a job with Chevron as a land representative, according to search warrant affidavit obtained by the Star-Telegram.
“This relationship escalated into an exclusive dating relationship, which ended in chaos,” Fort Worth police Detective Andrew Nolan wrote in the affidavit.
In May, according to the affidavit, Ingram drove to Fort Worth to confront the woman.
Driving past her house with another friend, the woman would tell police, she spotted Ingram inside her kitchen, after he apparently let himself into the house with an emergency key.
Early the next morning, the woman awoke to find Ingram at the foot of her bed, going through her cellphone. She also discovered he had dumped out the contents of her purse in the kitchen, rifling through her receipts and personal paperwork, the affidavit states.
She called police, but Ingram left before officers arrived, the affidavit states.
The harassment continued through May, escalating to the distribution of the videos, which police suspected Ingram had sent from a computer inside the Midland home of his aunt and uncle, with whom he had been staying.
Police executed a search warrant at the Midland house July 25, seizing a phone, Ipad, computers, storage devices and a camera, the warrant shows.
“It was suspected that Ingram knowingly used a hidden video recording device to illegally obtain video of the couple engaged in private acts without the consent of the victim,” Nolan said Friday. “ A further analysis of items seized from the Midland residence confirmed what we initially suspected.”
Tarrant County records show Ingram was convicted of DWI in 2011 after Fort Worth police found him asleep behind the wheel of his running Volvo. He was sentenced to two years’ probation, when ended in September.
Join the Discussion
Fort Worth Star-Telegram is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.