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Long Island woman harassed by stranger online wins in court

Lisa-Michelle Kucharz was the subject of harassment that a judge called ‘the epitome of cyberbullying’ and the most ‘egregious’ he’s ever seen.

Lisa-Michelle Kucharz at her home in Valley Stream

Lisa-Michelle Kucharz at her home in Valley Stream on Oct. 25, 2017. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

For two years, Lisa-Michelle Kucharz dreaded checking her email, going on Facebook or searching for herself online.

One day she would find a blog post with her professional headshot claiming she was a pedophile. The next, cruel messages deriding her appearance would flood her Facebook message folder, said Kucharz, 47, of Valley Stream.

The abuse stemmed from a stranger, a woman named Dion Tyson who lived in Ontario, Canada. And it didn’t come to an end until Tyson was arrested, pleaded guilty to criminal harassment and was sentenced to jail.

Tyson is serving her 6-month sentence at an Ontario correctional facility.

At the sentencing on Oct. 2 in the Ontario Court of Justice, Judge George Gage called the case an “egregious” example of online harassment.

“It represents without question the epitome of cyberbullying and the most egregious form of posting that I have had the misfortune to review in the relatively limited number of cases that have come before me in my judicial career of almost 15 years,” Gage said during sentencing, a transcript shows.

Maanit Zemel, a Toronto-based attorney specializing in internet law who was retained by Kucharz in early 2015, called the cyberbullying case “very uncommon” and said the decision reflects the severity of the offense.

An attorney for Tyson declined to comment. Attempts to reach Tyson have been unsuccessful.

The online harassment began in September 2014, Kucharz said, a couple of months after she had stopped dating her personal trainer, former UFC fighter Luke Cummo, 37, of Lynbrook. Kucharz said she started received insulting Facebook messages from Tyson’s account, and about 40 aliases she believed to be Tyson.

Tyson, 34, also had dated Cummo.

“Your face is hideous. You shove food down your throat like a garbage disposal,” screenshots of the messages show.

“It was such a horrible time for me,” Kucharz said. “There’s no other way to say it. I was scared that this person would do something to me. I was humiliated by all of this.”

Tyson also impersonated Kucharz on several social media platforms, and posted on the Facebook page of her employer at the time, Kucharz said.

Cummo said he asked Tyson to “back off,” but the situation “got out of hand.”

Kucharz, who teaches communication and social media courses at Long Island University’s Riverhead campus, said she was forced to deactivate many of her accounts.

Kucharz reported the incidents to Nassau County police in December 2014, according to police.

Police determined Tyson was located in Canada, so Kucharz hired a cyber investigations firm based in Florida and an attorney in Canada, who advocated for Ontario police to take the case.

Tyson was arrested in December 2015 and pleaded guilty to criminal harassment. During sentencing, Tyson expressed her remorse, saying she was “really sorry for all the problems that I caused her,” the transcript shows. She said she also had been a victim of cyberbullying and that she had sought treatment to “control my emotions.”

The judge said the sentence reflected the impact the harassment had on Kucharz’s life, according to the transcript.

“It is clear that these nasty posts, completely and entirely unwarranted and undeserved, have had a substantial impact on Ms. Kucharz’s life,” Gage said.

Kucharz, who has slowly returned to social media, wants to use her story as a way to advocate for cyberbullying prevention.

“I was 44 when this all started and it broke me,” Kucharz said. “To be a teen today and deal with the level of cyberbullying that’s taking place is frightening. We really need to take a step back and make the cyber world safer for the next generation.”

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