By Erica Morse
Editor-in-Chief, Victims News Online
Updated 1:53am EST, Jan. 15, 2013
Joseph “Joey” Dauben, a former blogger and online publisher, was sentenced Monday afternoon in a Texas courtroom on four felony counts related to the sexual assault of a teenager on a 2007 youth camping trip. As news of the sentence began to spread, those who know the former “rogue reporter” personally began to experience a myriad of emotions, which have only now begun to reach the surface.
For those familiar with the name Joseph “Joey” Dauben, the last week has been a nightmare. For some, it has been as long as months and years — and for a few — it’s been at least a decade of ups and downs, twists and turns, all resulting in today’s unimaginable sentence. As I (and many others) begin to process the last week and beyond, we have been met with a flood of emotions from anger to frustration, bitterness to joy, relief to grief; for Dauben’s story is not just complicated, it is anything but normal.
My first encounter with Joey Dauben was approximately 18 months ago, on the Hailey Dunn case. The missing west Texas teen had caught the attention of many reporters throughout the lone star state, including Dauben. When he first contacted me, I thought his intentions were pure, and he was just another colleague in the field who wanted to offer help. However, I soon learned — the hard way — that Joey Dauben was anything but pure, and his intentions weren’t either.
I could sit here and explain the entire chaotic situation in full detail, but it will most likely repulse you the way it repulsed me. In short, I took a series of photographs at a search scene one Saturday morning — in the presence of other searchers — for the purposes of determining if the mess of clothing, personal care supplies and (now-deemed) animal bones needed to be investigated by law enforcement.
Fast-forward a few months. We still didn’t have a clear understanding of whether or not those items had been reviewed by someone in a position of authority, so I reached out to someone I trusted for advice. That person chose, instead, to send the photos to one Joey Dauben; and from that moment on, my life, my name, and my reputation have never been the same.
Within days, Dauben had fabricated a story so ridiculous, and it grew by the day. One “report” claimed I had insisted the bones were 100% human, and belonged to the missing teen. Another claimed I put them in my purse, my car, and attempted to sell them for profit. Soon after, photos of me began emerging all over the Internet, with nicknames such as “the bone lady,” and “the skull lady.” Over the next year, the stories kept getting bigger, Dauben’s versions continued to change, and he had caught the attention of several dozen Internet whack-jobs who believed his every word.
I thought I was alone in this mess. I thought Dauben had some strange fascination for coming after me, and that this was personal. However, I soon learned this was not the case; that this type of cyberbullying was not only Dauben’s M.O., but that he did things like this on a daily basis — intentionally — for the purposes of driving traffic to his websites.
Joey Dauben was involved in a ridiculous “pay-per-click” Internet scheme, which involved upwards of 800,000 websites. No, that is not a typo. Eight hundred thousand websites. Some were news-driven, others were not; but all had the same intention: drive traffic to these sites by creating insanely-sensationalized stories, generate a few cents per click, and do the math: with 800,000 or so domain names, a decent profit was being made.
It was around the time that I learned of his scheme that I began to hear from some of Dauben’s other victims. For the purposes of this article, I will not name a single one, as they have all been put through pure hell in their Joey Dauben tenure(s), and I will not add a single moment’s additional pain to their lives. However, their stories — like mine — are not only absurd, but extremely painful. And just like this editorial is my way of processing the madness, I feel obligated to speak for the other victims as well.
One man contacted me, asserting he had been on Dauben’s radar for “several years,” having been falsely accused of molesting not one — but two — of his children. He provided me with copies of multiple polygraph tests — some conducted by the FBI — all of which he had passed with flying colors. However, to Dauben, that didn’t matter. One of the man’s daughters was out of control, had Dauben’s ear, and that was enough to make a sensational story out of nothing.
For as Dauben’s victims know — and know well — once his focus shifts elsewhere, a new victim will soon emerge.
There were more victims; many, many more. And their stories, like ours, were ridiculous, absurd, and all 100% fabricated by Joey Dauben.
For the last decade, Joey Dauben has embarked on a journey of false allegations, gossip, rumors, and rhetoric, which had nothing to do with seeking the facts. Unlike ethical journalists, Dauben falsified statements and quotes, fabricated “sources” out of thin air, and attacked the lives of unsuspecting, innocent people, for the purposes of profit. He knowingly, maliciously, intentionally, and viciously ruined lives, reputations, careers, and relationships, all for a few pennies on the dollar and a little bit of online “celebrity” status.
Then, we learned of the most vulnerable victim of them all: a teenage boy who was allegedly molested by Dauben at a church youth camp in the summer of 2007. Of all the accusations against Dauben, this was — by far — the most stomach-churning of them all. We knew the man as a libelous, slandering, yellow journalist; but I doubt anyone who knew Joey Dauben the “rogue reporter” ever expected anything like this.
Fast-forward (again) to Dec. 2011. Dauben is arrested on these sexual assault charges, and all his victims began using Google for fact-finding. Somewhere, inside all those news reports, was a little blog that quickly took on a life of its own. For this blog was different: it had been designed with the intention of gathering all of Dauben’s victims in one centralized place, where we could vent our frustrations, attempt to take back our good names, and share in the knowlege that Joey was about to finally answer to a higher authority.
Joseph Dauben was originally given a $200,000 bond, which allowed us all to breathe a sigh of relief; there simply was no way a man who made his income off pay-per-click websites could ever raise enough money for that type of bond. So we danced, we rejoiced, and we reveled in the knowlege that our online bully was finally behind bars, away from a keyboard. The even better news was that District Attorneys in not one — but two counties — were attempting to seize his websites, as proof that Dauben published identifying information about another falsely-accused man and the teenage victim pressing charges against him.
That was, until, his bond was reduced, and Dauben was let out pending his trial.
In March 2012, Joey Dauben walked out of the Navarro County, TX, jail on bond. We cried; we freaked; and we tensed up at the knowledge that this madman was, once again, on the loose, able to terrorize us all. It didn’t take long. Within days of his release, Dauben’s articles began re-appearing on new websites, and the stories became more grandiose. Some of us were sent into an absolute panic. The website, where we had all gathered to talk, was suddenly quiet; for we felt defeated, and emotionally overwhelmed.
The revenge was on, as Dauben’s ability to find Internet whack-job supporters hit an all-time high. While the online support waned, the phone calls and text messages exploded. I spent dozens of hours on the phone with some of his other victims, as we cried, screamed, and vented at the lack of understanding as to how any judge could allow this monster to roam free.
One “condition” of Dauben’s release was that he go nowhere near a computer, and have no Internet access whatsoever. That, of course, didn’t work. For as brilliant as any judge may be, Dauben is just as intelligent; and ten times more sneaky. So, he enlisted the assistance of his “supporters”, as they typed on his behalf, and we — the victims — watched in horror as the libelous stories reappeared, and our names were once again trashed.
In August 2012, we had had enough. We banned together once more, and began making enough noise with the District Attorneys in two Texas counties to revoke Dauben’s bond based on violation of his restrictions. It worked. In September 2012, his bond was revoked, and Dauben was ordered to return to his cell until the trial.
We breathed a sigh of relief for all of two hours; until the now-infamous “manifesto” appeared online.
The “manifesto,” as Dauben calls it, is his first attempt at a full-fledged book, detailing the horrible people (that would be us) who worked with the political conspiracy to put away him, the martyr. You see, Dauben had not only gone from madman to psycho, but we feared there was serious mental breakdown taking place inside the mind of this man, who was now convinced that politicians, police officers, other reporters (and anyone else who looked at him sideways) had all joined together to shut down the almighty Dauben. For at some point, he had begun to refer to himself as “Yahweh,” and believed he was a one-man army tasked with saving the world from filth like us.
Fast-forward again to December 2012. How Dauben got out one last time before that trial will elude me for the rest of my life, but damned if he didn’t accomplish it. Fortunately, I was days away from going back to the Midwest, and no longer had to fear that he was only a couple hours’ away from me physically; but not all his victims felt that safe.
On Monday, Jan. 7, 2012, jury selection began; the following day, the trial followed; and by Friday afternoon, a jury of his peers had found him “guilty” on all four felony charges. It was an emotional week filled with ups and downs, as we rejoiced on the days it seemed to go against him, and feared those moments when he seemed to make a positive impact. Although few and far between, those moments were the most terrifying of all, as we knew this was probably our last chance to see Joey Dauben pay for his sins.
Monday afternoon, the same jury which found him “guilty” handed down the sentence of 10 years per count; and at approximately 6 p.m. last evening, the victims of Joey Dauben were finally vindicated. Although this trial was about his acts against one person, it truly was a victory for us all. We, the adults, who tried everything in our power to stop his reign of terror, were now grateful to one teenager who had the strength to stand up and tell the world what this man had done to him that fateful night in 2007. And while that teenager is vindicated tonight, knowing he put away the madman, he has no idea that hundreds more will be indebted to him forever.
For it is because of him — this incredible teenager — that we will all sleep much more peacefully tonight, knowing that Joey Dauben will spend at least the next five, eight, or even 10 years’ minimum behind bars, in a maximum security prison, in the state of Texas. But more importantly to many of us, Joseph “Joey” Dauben will never be allowed near a keyboard again.