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the hits the fan

UMich's not-fantasy-enough author charged with a federal offense as authorities read his e-mail and discover fantasies of abduction and torture of 12 year olds.

04 February 1995

In the throes of academic stress, a University of Michigan student pounded out an ultraviolent fantasy featuring one of his classmates, to whom he had never spoken. He posted the story to where it was discovered by an alumnus, a lawyer in Moscow. Officials at the school were informed, and Jake Baker, 20, has been suspended from school, as the FBI bring him to trial for violating federal obscenity laws.

The lines have been drawn - protecting the privacy of a woman, and her right not to be the subject of violent tales, versus free speech - the right of Joe to use any name, or subject, for a story of his choice.

The fact that this all occured on the Internet, is, of course, side show. Let's hope the media keep it that way. It's only the distribution folks - violent stories are written and passed around all the time. People fighting for Joe's right to distribute these types of materials over the Internet could result in a backlash - "we must control the Internet" kind of thing. One possible backlash may already be in progress - a US Senator has proposed jail time for naughty e-mailers. One must pick and choose battles, as they say. But if we let them take Joe away for this, who's next?

The wrangling that will unfold over this issue means that women will feel even less comfortable with the Internet. While I respect Joe's right to free speech, I wish it didn't come at the cost of a woman's sense of security, and women's sense of online decorum.

The female student Baker used in his story was in a class with him during Fall Semester. According to him, he used her name because he had a hard time inventing names. Of course the greatest tragedy in all of this is that she will probably end up leaving University of Michigan, as this is sure to disrupt her educational composure. Come to think of it, if the feds delve further into porn and sex on the net, I'm sure they can find plenty more people to move from schools to jails. All in our national interest! All funded by our tax dollars!

Some heated discussion in, amongst other places. Finds so far:
  1. On March 9, the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review is hosting a debate with Catharine A. MacKinnon and other civil liberties and government speakers. Check here for info, and a transcript when it is all over.
  2. Overview of the situation is available at the Jake Baker Information Page, including a picture of Baker, as well as the story that started it all.
  3. Homeboy gets jail time in this full report of the situation, as it stands February 10.
  4. An AOL subscriber positits a plausible theory for future institutional control of usenet
  5. Best I can can tell, he's not a relation of mine
  6. Someone doesn't get the idea
  7. Try an ultravioraunchy tale, the inevitable Jake Baker: Gone Fishin' <m/f, nc, rape, torture, incest>
  8. The Detroit Free Press Article dated 04 February

and now I find this:

DISCLAIMER: this isn't true, these people never lived, etc.etc.etc......

before the latest erotic fiction.

Re: Censorship at U of Michigan

From: (Peter Swanson)
Date: 10 Feb 1995 19:50:55 GMT
Organization: University of Michigan Engineering, Ann Arbor
Newsgroups: soc.culture.usa,, 
alt.society.civil-liberty,alt.society.civil-liberties, alt.politics.correct, 
References: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 

"As far as this office can determine, there is no precedent for a
case that involves the Internet."  -- Sam Hutchins
                                      Detroit U.S. Attorney's Office

[DPS == Department of Public Safety (University Police)]
[SSRR == Student Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (non-academic
         conduct code)]

I have more accurate information now, gleaned from the Michigan Daily
and WDIV-Detroit.  Daily reporters were Ronnie Glassberg, Josh White,
and Editor in Chief Michael Rosenberg.  [I wish they'd put the Daily

Abraham Jacob Alkhabaz (Jake Baker, he uses his mother's name) has
been arraigned in U.S. District Court and charged with criminal
"transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of a communication
containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure
the person of another."  This is a federal offense and carries a
sentence of up to 5 years in federal prison.

Baker was denied bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas A. Carlson
because Carlson deemed him a threat to society.  WDIV reported that
the judge referred to Baker as a ticking bomb.

David Cahill, Baker's attorney, will not represent Baker in District
Court because he is not a criminal lawyer.  Cahill is in the process
of retaining a specialist in federal criminal law.  "I think it's been
blown totally out of proportion," Cahill said.  "Nothing's happened.
It's admitted that nothing's happened."

WDIV reported that someone in the U.S. Attorney's office pointed out
that serial killers often fantasize about their actions before
carrying them out.  Cahill said a psychologist in Ohio determined
that Baker was not a threat to himself or others, after examining
Baker on Tuesday (2/7/95).  "We had a local psychiatrist who said
the same thing: Fantasies are not threats," Cahill said.

Baker signed a letter of consent that allowed DPS to search his
belongings, including his computer files.  He also initially
waived his Miranda rights.

In searching his email account, DPS found correspondence between
Baker and Canadian Arthur Gronda, in which the two discuss torturing
a woman.  In an affidavit, FBI Special Agent Greg Stejskal quotes
an email message from Baker to Gronda:

"I don't want any blood in my room, though I have come upon an
excellent method to abduct a bitch.
As I said before, my room is right across from the girl's bathroom.
Wiat (sic) until late at night, grab her when she goes to unlock the
door.  Knock her unconscious, and put her into one of those portable
lockers (forgot the name for it), or even a duffle bag.  Then hurry
her out to the car and take her away ... what do you think?"

Gronda responds to Baker's message:

"I have been out tonight and I can tell you that I am thinking more
about 'doing' a girl.  I can picture it so well ... and I can think
of no better use for their flesh.  I HAVE to make a bitch suffer!"

In another message, Baker wrote "Torture is foreplay, rape is romance,
snuff is climax."  [for the newbies: snuff == murder] 

WDIV reported that Baker and Gronda discussed the abduction and
rape of girls as young as 12 and 13 years old.

Joan Lowenstein, a communications department lecturer the Daily is
using as a first amendment consultant, said that even with the messages,
Baker's speech remains protected.

"It's the action that's connected with the speech that's not
protected," Lowenstein said.  "It is protected speech unless there is
some act that turns it into a crime."

Lowenstein said the prosecutor will need to connect Baker's messages
to some action linked to the described plan.  For instance, she said
that buying a bag like he mentions in the email could connect him
to criminal behavior.

"A key point is whether this was a fantasy or whether there was
something that made it likely that the crime would occur," Lowenstein
said.  "Any time there's a statute that criminalizes a threat, it
still has to be a viable threat."

Baker's SSRR hearing was adjourned after 4 hours of deliberation, and
will be continued next week.  Baker was unable to attend the hearing
because he was in jail.

The woman named in Baker's story has declined comment and is considering
leaving the University.

A disclaimer:
I post this information to the Internet because I believe it to be
a ground-breaking case in free speech and privacy rights on the
Internet.  I post the information here in as unbiased a manner as I
am capable, so that readers can get a broader view of the story.
You may be able to find out more from the following news sources
covering the case:
Detroit Free Press (available on Compuserve)
Detroit News       (hasn't covered case on campus yet)
Radio WJR-Detroit
TV WJBK-2 (Fox) Detroit
TV WDIV-4 (NBC) Detroit  (contact at
TV WXYZ-7 (ABC) Detroit

I think the other TV stations are available on Compuserve or AOL, but
I don't know their addresses.

It is spring break at UM in 1 week; I will be out of town for 5 days,
disconnected from the net and local Detroit news.  Don't ask me why
"spring break" is in February.  If someone else would like to post
developments during that time, feel free.

I have never met Jake Baker.  If you don't like what he did, please
don't complain to me about it.  Thanks in advance.

| Peter J. Swanson                   |             |
| PhD Candidate                      |  controls specialist                |
| Electrical Engineering:Systems     |  impact, chaotic motion,            |
| University of Michigan             |  vibratory part orientation         |

a plausible theory

from an AOL subscriber, no less.

Re: Censorship at U of Michigan

From: (Karni)
Date: 11 Feb 1995 23:02:01 GMT
Organization: Individuality Hall
Newsgroups: soc.culture.usa,, alt.society.civil-liberty,
alt.society.civil-liberties, alt.politics.correct, 
References: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 

In article <3hgub9$>, (Michael John
Falkner) wrote:

> Too late, Chad.  The First Amendment, as it relates to freedom of speech, is
> dead.  This is a clear case of speech deemed not only pornographic, but
> threatening.  Now he is not only expelled, but in federal court.
> Once Congress sees that this is not the most uncommon conduct on the Net,
> the Net will have controls placed on it.

Controls are coming anyway. Commercial services (especially my own dear
AOL) are going to take over the net and usenet. The alt.* heirarchy is
getting out of control just on the basis of size and expansion of number
of groups. So they'll reform usenet by killing the entire, unmoderated
alt.* heirarchy, leaving only the moderated heirarchies.

Of course, they'll never be able to close down all the dirty little FTP
sites, but that's another matter.
--                   |   "People like Karni don't die!
Individuality Hall                |    They live forever... 
Institute for International       |    ... and bug you!"
   Electoral Analysis             |

as best I can tell...

he's not a relation.

Re: Censorship at U of Michigan

From: (Robert W. Hall)
Date: 11 Feb 1995 03:51:11 GMT
Organization: University of Michigan EECS Dept., Ann Arbor, MI
Newsgroups: soc.culture.usa,, alt.society.civil-liberty,
alt.society.civil-liberties, alt.politics.correct, 
References: 1 , 2 , 3 

This is not a case of censorship, IMHO.  This student is a sicko that
needs to be institutionalized.  He has no functional value to society.

Robert W. Hall
 Graduate Student, Computer Science and Engineering---------
  Reliable Distributed Systems and Multimedia
 The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor--------------------

I don't think this person gets it...

...she could have her e-mail raided

re: i need some help

From: (Noelle23)
Date: 9 Feb 1995 23:58:37 -0500
Organization: America Online, Inc. (1-800-827-6364)

my boyfriend is into bondage and sexual teasing, and what he calls "love
torture"...he wants me to tie him up and torture him. does anybody have
some new and exciting ideas how to do as he wants? i hate to admit to him
that I don't know how...please help....he especially likes cock and ball
torture...any ideas how?


From the Detroit Free Press, Saturday, February 4, 1995:

U-M Ousts Student Over Rape Fantasy:

Sadistic story named woman on Internet

A University of Michigan student is being investigated by the FBI after publishing a rape and murder fantasy about a female student -someone he had never spoken to- on the Internet computer system.

Joe Baker, 20, of Boardman, Ohio, has been suspended from school, which his attorney says violated Baker's rights to free speech. That opinion is shared by the American Civil Liberties Union.

But feminist scholar Catherine MacKinnon, an expert on the First Amendment and violence against women, said publishing the fantasy is a threat to the female student.

In one of three sex stories posted by Baker on the Internet in December, he describes torturing the woman with a hot curling iron, and mutilating and sodomizing her while she is gagged and tied to a chair. The story ends with Baker lighting a match, as if to torch her apartment, and telling her good-bye.

The name of the female student was not released.

Baker said he chose the student "because she was an attractive young woman and I needed a name for the story I was writing." He said he knew her from a class but never spoke to her.

Baker said the violence depicted in the story stemmed from "stress I was suffering over a student loan," he said. "The pseudo-sexual stuff came from ragin hormones."

FBI Special Agent Gregory Stejskal, however, said publishing the fantasies may have violated federal obscenity laws.

The fantasies were in a file of sex stories discovered by a U-M alumnus who was 'surfing' on the Internet on Jan. 9, said Baker's attorney, David Cahill of Ann Arbor. That person, an attorney in Moscow, contacted U-M officials. Federal privacy laws prevented U-M officials from commenting on the case, said Lisa Baker, associate vice president of university relations.

Joe Baker was escorted off campus Thursday by police as an emergency action. Psychiatrists had determined Baker "might be dangerous." Cahill said U-M overreacted to the psychiatrists' report and whisked Baker off campus without a hearing.

"This is an issue of free speech," Cahil said Friday. "He did not do anything. This is not a case of an escalating series of contacts. He did not date her and his only contact with her was in a class."

Baker said Cahill met with U-M officials Friday to ask that Baker be allowed to attend classes and perform his job as a projectionist on U-M's north campus -if he continues to receive psychological counseling, Cahill said. U-M officials said they would study the request.

Mackinnon said the fantasy is not a free speech issue.

"This is a threat to this woman's life, safety, human dignity and equalilty," Mackinnon, a U-M law professor, said. "Threats are not protected by the First Amendment. If the story was circulated at the University, it could potentially be considered sexual harassment."

The issue raises troubling questions about women's rights, said Ann Arbor attorney Lore Rogers. Although as chairwoman of the ACLU Washtenaw County branch she agrees that the fantasy is protected by the first Amendment, she admitted she is struggling with the issue.

"As a lawyer and civil libertarian I would say that just because someone is named does not mean it's a threat," said Rogers. "But a lot of women would feel raped by this story. Women know that some men fantasize and others obsess and act out.

"Does the First Amendment take precedence over this woman's right to privacy and her right not to have her name used to further this man's rights of free speech?"

Cahill said Baker, a linguistics major, suffers from an overactive imagination, but is not dangerous.

"This guy has a long career ahead of him as a script writer for Hollywood slasher movies," Cahill said. "He's pushing the envelope on the use of language."

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