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Firm Sues Online Service to Identify Author of Threatening E-Mail

December 16, 2000

An Oakbrook Terrace firm filed suit Friday in hopes of forcing two online service providers to reveal the anonymous author of a threatening e-mail sent to one of its workers.

A female employee of Van Kampen Investments Inc. received a bizarre e-mail Oct. 18 that included sexual affronts, derogatory remarks and threats of bodily harm.

The author describes himself as a co-worker. The writer suggests the employee try to figure out his identity but, if she does, instructs her not to smile at him or he'll "knock her teeth out."

The company investigated the harassing e-mail, entitled "Mr. Bingle," but was informed by both America Online and At Home Corp. such identification would only be provided by subpoena, according to the lawsuit.

The suit, filed against "John Doe" in DuPage County, asks a judge to compel the Internet service providers to disclose the information.

Internet service providers such as AOL, the largest with more than 29 million subscribers, are not required to give out their user's personal information unless instructed to by court order.

The investment company also seeks more than $500,000 in damages from the author and asks for an injunction forbidding the author from transmitting any more harassing e-mails to its employees.

DuPage Circuit Judge Edward Duncan is scheduled to consider the lawsuit on April 16.

Peter Steinmeyer, a company lawyer who filed the suit, was unavailable for comment Friday.

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