Online dating may be mainstream by now, but a recent California court decision contains yet another cautionary tale for anyone inclined to be overly trusting of Internet matchups.
The lesson for daters: If your inaugural encounter with an online paramour begins with a request for money and accolades for your laptop, move on. The lesson for thieves: If you steal your Net paramour's laptop, under California's three-strikes law you could be facing life in prison.
Earlier this week, a state appeals court in Los Angeles upheld a guilty verdict against a man named Ronnie Henning. According to court papers, he burglarized the apartment of a woman he met through an Internet personals site, made off with her laptop and certain accessories, and promptly sold them to a pawn shop for $250--but not before wiping her hard drive and changing the administrator's username to one identical to his online dating alias.
The court didn't take kindly to the reported repeat offender, who had been previously charged with felonies summarized as involving "moral turpitude." Henning now potentially faces 31 years to life in prison, thanks to a so-called Three Strikes law, which requires lengthier punishments to convicts with three or more prior felony convictions under their belts.
The episode that prompted the conviction dates back to February 2005, according to the court documents, when Rachel Daniels agreed to give Henning her mobile phone number and to meet him in person after they connected through an unnamed online dating site.
Henning went on to call Daniels at around 9:30 one night, tell her his truck had broken down, and request that she pick him up. Daniels obliged, and upon meeting her, Henning asked if he could borrow $70 to buy a truck part from a friend. Daniels realized she'd forgotten her wallet, so she drove both of them back to her house to retrieve it. There, she received what was arguably her first omen: Henning "commented favorably" on a laptop perched on the arm of her sofa, the court opinion said.
Daniels proceeded to drive Henning to the friend's house in purported quest of the auto part. But when he emerged with only a paper bag and asked her to drive him to another friend's house to get the "complete" part, she started to feel uneasy and drove him home, according to the court records. Still feeling apprehensive alone that night in her abode, she opted to stay at a friend's place.
Prompted by a call from her landlord the next morning, Daniels returned to her apartment to find that the door frame had been shattered, the door kicked in, and her laptop, modem and phone cord apparently stolen. A few weeks later, police informed her they had found a computer with her serial number at a pawn shop. Her files had been deleted, and the administrator's name had been set to "Baby Come Close"--Henning's username on the online dating sites.
According to court papers, it wasn't an isolated incident. At trial, another woman who had met Henning through the same site (and same username) a year earlier testified that he had stolen her car one night while she was asleep and given it up as "collateral" for gambling losses. (She ultimately recovered her vehicle; there were no charges against Henning in that episode.)
WORDS AND PHRASES
abode: n. nơi ở
accessories: n. phụ kiện
appeals court: n. tòa án phúc thẩm
apprehensive: adj. sợ hãi
burglarize: v. ăn trộm
cautionary: adj. cảnh báo/ cảnh tỉnh
charge: n. tội danh
collateral: adj. "gán nợ" (ký quỹ, thế chấp)
conviction: n. vi phạm/ phạm tội
date: v. hẹn hò (nam nữ)
dating: n. sự hẹn hò, dịch vụ mai mối
door frame: np. khung cửa
felony: n. tội, tiền án
guilty verdict: n. phán quyết (bị can) có tội
identical: adj. giống hệt
inaugural encounter: np. lần gặp mặt đầu tiên
inclined to: adj. có xu hướng, thường hay
isolated: adj. bị cô lập
mainstream: n. chính, chủ yếu
moral turpitude: np. thói xấu
oblidge: v. bắt buộc
offender: n. người vi phạm
online dating alias: np. bí danh hò hẹn trên mạng (comp. nick)
opt to: pv. muốn
paramour: n. tình nhân
pawn shop: n. hiệu cầm đồ
perch: v. đặt (chênh vênh)
pick up: pv. đón (ai)
proceed: v. tiến hành
purported quest: np. ý định tìm kiếm
retrieve: v. lấy lại
shatter: v. đập vỡ/ phá vỡ
Three-Strikes law: n. luật quá tam ba bận
trial: n. xét xử
wallet: n. ví tiền
wipe: v. xóa sạch