A 28-year-old man who exacted revenge on an ex-girlfriend by sending her email contacts videos he had secretly taken of their sexual acts pleaded guilty Thursday in exchange for five years of deferred adjudication probation.
Under the plea agreement, Philip Welch Ingram, 28, must undergo psychological treatment, pay a $500 fine, cannot reside in Tarrant County, and can have no contact with his ex-girlfriend.
He is also prohibited from making obsessive phone calls to anyone, prosecutor Lori Burks said.
“Don’t be calling people more than three times in an hour — that sort of thing — because that’s part of his problem and that is part of the victimization that he does,” Burks explained after the hearing. “That’s one of the conditions that I insisted we put in there … to protect anybody in the future from having to live through 50 phone calls or 60 phones calls in an hour. That’s what he was doing.”
Ingram, dressed in a black suit and accompanied in the courtroom by a relative, pleaded guilty to improper photography/visual recording and breach of computer security, both state jail felonies.
He declined to comment after the hearing Thursday.
“This has been an unfortunate matter for everybody involved,” Ingram’s defense attorney, Mark Daniel, said. “It is, however, fortunate the matter resolved in the manner it did.”
The first reported case
A handful of states have passed laws aimed at combating the growing trend of what’s been called “revenge porn” — the distribution or posting of explicit photos or videos of an individual over the Internet without the subject’s permission.
Ingram’s case is believed to be the first of its kind reported to authorities in Tarrant County.
“There are no other revenge porn cases that I am aware of before this one,” Burks said. “There have been some after.”
Burks said she and Daniel agreed to the plea deal in part to prevent from the victim from having to face any further embarrassment by going forward with a trial.
“We’ve been working with the defense attorney for quite some time on an offer that would involve protection of my victim,” Burks said. “Part of that protection is to make sure that her exposure is not any greater than it already has been and the embarrassment is kept to a minimum. That’s always a concern in these cases.”
If Ingram violates his probation, he could still be sentenced to up to two years in a state jail and a $10,000 fine.
“It gives him a big incentive not to mess up on this probation because he loses a lot if he does and gets a permanent felony conviction on his record, which he doesn’t want,” Burks said.
The victim was not present at Thursday’s hearing and did not return a phone message seeking comment Thursday.
A deteriorating relationship that ended in “chaos”
According to a search warrant affidavit, Ingram and the victim began dating in summer 2012 and he had basically moved in with the woman by that December.
Three months later, she told investigators, the relationship deteriorated as Ingram grew possessive and jealous, even after he moved to Midland to start a new job.
“This relationship escalated into an exclusive dating relationship, which ended in chaos,” Fort Worth police detective Andrew Nolan wrote in the affidavit.
The woman told investigators that Ingram later broke into her home using her hidden emergency key, and that she once awoke to find him sitting on her bed, going through her cellphone. She called 911 but he left before police arrived, the affidavit states.
The victim previously told the Star-Telegram that on the night before the emails were sent out, Ingram had sent her several disturbing text messages, falsely accusing her of being out with another man. He then threatened to email out videos of the couple engaged in sexual acts and sent her excerpts of the videos to prove he had them.
She said his last message, “Have a good morning,” was sent about 2 a.m. on May 30, 2013, as she slept.
By the time she awoke later that morning, Fort Worth police allege, Ingram had already hacked into the woman’s email, sending the explicit videos to more than 100 of the woman’s contacts — including her parents, friends, employer, and professional associates.
“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 previously told the Star-Telegram.
Police have said they believe that, unbeknownst to the victim, Ingram hid a video recording device to record the two engaged in sex. After their break-up, police say, he sent excerpts of the videos out using a computer in his aunt and uncle’s Midland home, where he had been staying.
Burks said Thursday that she was told Ingram had harassed other girls but not to the degree the victim suffered.
“I think his reasoning has to do with control and inability to handle rejection,” Burks said.