Facebook stalker won't 'fit in' to prison, says lawyer

Image: George Bronk behind bars
George Bronk, 23, who faces up to six years in prison after pleading guilty for hacking into women's Facebook pages to take over their personal e-mail acounts, is seen during a hearing in Sacramento County Superior Court in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, March 10.Rich Pedroncelli / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A man accused of violating the online privacy of women by making public their intimate photos was portrayed Thursday by his lawyer as a naive, bored young person who had a drinking problem and didn't recognize the public embarrassment he was causing.

Defense attorney Monica Lynch said her client George Bronk was immature, unemployed and killing time while he cared for his ailing parents and made a hobby of trolling women's Facebook pages, looking for their e-mails and gleaning enough personal information to answer basic Internet security questions.

He would then search for nude or seminude photos and videos the women had sent to their husbands or boyfriends, and distribute the images to the contact lists of the women, authorities said.

Bronk, 23, pleaded guilty in January to charges including computer intrusion, false impersonation and possession of child pornography. The state attorney general's office wants him to serve six years in prison. A probation officer is recommending four years behind bars.

Lynch said her client should get probation.

"He was bored and he was drinking, and his entertainment was sitting in front of his computer and doing these things," Lynch told The Associated Press outside court. "He is gentle, and he is sweet, and I do not see him fitting into the mainstream prison population."

Prosecutors countered that Bronk was stalking the women. He changed their e-mail passwords to take control of their accounts, taunted some of the women in online exchanges, and coerced at least one woman into sending him more explicit photographs by threatening to distribute the pictures he already had, authorities said.

Investigators said they found 172 e-mail files with explicit photographs on Bronk's computer, and tracked his victims to England, Washington, D.C., and 17 states.

The women said they were embarrassed and violated as their photos were distributed to co-workers, families, employers and friends between December 2009 and September.

Lynch said her client, who lived with in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights, didn't realize the damage he had done. She argued the victims made themselves vulnerable by taking the nude and seminude photos and videos of themselves.

His father, also named George Bronk, told the AP, "From the minute the investigation started, he took responsibility for his actions. For that, I am always proud of him."

His mother, Joyce Bronk, said her son came to his parents in July, two months before authorities swooped in, and told them he had a drinking problem and needed help.

He went back to school to become an emergency medical technician and began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. She said he didn't realize the emotional damage he'd done until he had been sober for several weeks.

"This was an Internet persona he created when he was a drunk," she said. "He had no judgment skills at the time."

Prosecutors declined comment, saying they will make their case for prison at Bronk's sentencing hearing. He has been jailed on $500,000 bond since his arrest in October. He will have to register as a sex offender.

Lynch said one woman is seeking $1,200 in restitution from Bronk because she had to drop out of college after her photos were widely distributed. Lynch was unaware of anyone filing lawsuits against Bronk, and said no victims were expected to testify at the May hearing.

Telephone messages left with two victims were not immediately returned.