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First cyber-stalker charged under U.S. law

SEATTLE, April 23 (UPI) -- A 38-year-old Columbia, S.C., man pleaded not guilty in a Seattle court to charges of harassing a woman through the e-mail.

Robert James Murphy, accused of terrorizing 35-year-old Joelle Ligon of Seattle, is the first person in the country to be prosecuted under the federal cyber-harassment law, the Seattle Times reported Friday.

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The law equates sending obscene messages through e-mail with doing the same on the phone.

Murphy was charged with 26 counts of using his computer to stalk and harass Ligon. After his plea Thursday, Murphy was released on bond.

His trial is set for July 6. If convicted, Murphy faces up to two years in prison on each count.

Ligon said she started dating Murphy in Utah when she was 15. They broke up 13 years ago, when she was 22. That's the last time she remembers seeing him.

Prosecutors believe in 1998 Murphy began sending obscene and sexually explicit messages and pictures to Ligon, tracking her from his computer as she moved from job to job.

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