Finally, she persuaded Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies to investigate, and in March 2012, Tampa prosecutors filed criminal cyber-stalking charges against Seay. A month later, Jacobs sued her ex in Miami-Dade court. "She really did a number on me," Seay says. "All of a sudden, I'm accused of being a cyber rapist. I definitely got depressed."

The accusations rocked his family, particularly his pastor grandfather. They also nearly cost him his job as a sound engineer who was ironically entrusted with preventing exactly the type of leaks of sensitive information he was now accused of masterminding. "I would bring in new clients, and it would go really well until suddenly they'd call and say, 'Have you Googled your name recently?' " he says. "Then I'd lose $3,000 and two weeks of my time."

Seay hired a criminal attorney, who advised him to keep quiet. As a result, his side of the story was drowned out by Jacobs, who eloquently made her case around the globe.

"Because of the criminal charges, I couldn't talk to the media," Seay says. "I just had to sit here for six months not talking to anyone. I locked myself away and every day had see Google updates about what a terrible person I was. It was horrible."

But his legal strategy paid off October 3 when Hillsborough County prosecutors dropped all charges against him. The only evidence that investigators had unearthed was a tenuous link between his computer network and a fake email account created in his ex's name. But detectives couldn't prove Seay had created the email account or used it to disseminate any photos. "We had some proof issues that we couldn't overcome," says Mark Cox, a spokesman for the State Attorney's Office.

The decision was a victory for Seay but not an outright vindication. "I will always be known as 'the horrible ex-boyfriend who did these horrible crimes,' " he says. "The person that Holly thinks that I am and that she has created in her head couldn't be farther from the truth. I find what she's done inexcusable, but half of me feels really bad for her... this whole situation has done some damage to her."

But the personal battle between Seay and Jacobs has also ballooned into a much bigger debate over the need for laws against revenge porn. Seay sees Jacobs' crusade as dangerous, not only for him but also for others who could get unjustly imprisoned by overly aggressive legislation.

"If I could figure out who did this, I would be right there with her at the podium championing holding that person accountable," he says. "But what I can't support is a witch-hunt that is completely baseless... People will use these laws for things they were never intended for."

Seay claims that the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office did a sloppy job investigating his case and that prosecutors never should have filed charges in the first place. Had stronger laws been on the books in Florida, he could be wrongly rotting behind bars, he says. (Seay has been arrested several other times, including once in 2012 for indecent exposure, but he was never charged with a crime.)

"The state doesn't have the resources to investigate these cases," he says. "I had detectives making leaps of judgment against me over technical internet issues that they didn't even understand... Not one person even asked for my laptop!"

Jacobs counters that lack of resources is an argument for — not against — revenge porn laws in Florida. This May, she pushed state legislators to pass such a bill, but it was watered down and ultimately shelved.

Her nonprofit, End Revenge Porn, has had some success. Earlier this month, California became the first state to pass revenge porn legislation. But even that law has huge loopholes, Jacobs says. It equates the offense to "disorderly conduct" — a misdemeanor — and doesn't protect victims like her who knowingly took the pictures but were betrayed later by former lovers.

The legislation has alarmed free speech advocates such as Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It is imperative the state draw the legislation as narrowly as possible," he says, commending California for softening its law. "If it doesn't, there are going to be costly legal challenges" and questionable convictions. Roughly a dozen other states, including Florida, are considering bills to ban revenge porn.

Despite prosecutors' dropping charges against her ex, Jacobs remains more committed than ever to the cause. Not even Seay's suggestion that she posted some of the photos herself — a claim she furiously denies — can shake her dedication to fighting revenge porn. "It's become about helping others and changing lives and preventing this type of thing from happening again in the future," she says.

But she does have some barbed words for the man she still believes ruined her life with revenge porn: "If he just said, 'I didn't do it,' people would still blame him. But if he says, 'I'm a victim too,' then people start to wonder."

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4 comments
eeoop
eeoop

Unfortunately with digital images there's always a chance someone will send it around. It's one thing if it was on a Polaroid (but nowadays that can be scanned and posted too!)

JustSayin
JustSayin

So how about just not putting nude video of yourself out there in the first place......

Anonymous
Anonymous

@JustSayin How about not being a total creep and placing responsibility with the person who distributed the content without her consent?

 
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