Lovefraud has just published the most recent mind-boggling chapter of the Phil Haberman saga. Haberman, you may recall, has a tendency to exaggerate his meager military service to women he meets on the Internet, plays the wounded soldier when he suffered no injuries, and defrauds people such as his ex-wife.
Haberman’s story was originally published on September 1, 2005 by the Dallas Observer. It was then picked up by at least five different websites and blogs, including Lovefraud. His ex-wife launched her own blog in July, 2006.
Haberman had tried to coerce and threaten the other websites into removing the information about him. No one did it. But when his ex-wife launched her blog, she became a target that Haberman could strike. He took her to family court, claiming domestic violence through cyberstalking.
Judge Robert B. Bennett Jr., of the twelfth judicial circuit in Sarasota, Florida, believed Haberman. He ordered his ex-wife to remove her blog, and make sure all other Haberman stories were removed as well.
To write my article, I listened to the recording of the one-hour hearing in the Florida courtroom. How did Haberman convince the judge to buy his story?
Haberman testified first. When he did, he used message management techniques:
1. Borrowed credibility. In his first few sentences of testimony, Haberman mentioned being stationed at Fort Bragg, and Detective Mary Thoroman of the North Port police department. By doing so, he borrowed the credibility of the military and the police.
2. Detailed, but irrelevant facts. Haberman said his ex-wife was served with the temporary restraining order on “August 28 at 6:33 p.m.” He quoted the Florida cyberstalking statute number 784.048. As a direct marketing copywriter, I know that details sell better than generalities. Do these details mean anything? No, but they sound good.
3. Character assassination. Haberman quickly brought up that his ex-wife had been detained by the Las Vegas police for allegedly attempting to disarm a bailiff, and that the report had been faxed to Detective Thoromon. Of course he did not mention that there was no evidence that she actually did it.
4. Confident presentation. Haberman’s testimony was sprinkled with half-truths, irrelevancies and accusations. But his tone of voice was confident to the point of being adamant—he was right and his ex-wife was wrong.
Haberman did a good job of acting like a lawyer. His ex-wife, on the other hand, should have had an attorney. In her cross-examination, she asked questions that she shouldn’t have asked, and she didn’t ask the questions that would have helped her case. But, having been financially wiped out by Haberman, she couldn’t afford a lawyer. She was on her own, and did the best she could.
Haberman’s ex-wife thought she would have an opportunity to present proof that the statements on her blog were true, and Haberman was a liar and a fraud. For example, she had evidence that Haberman was not currently in the National Guard, as he stated. She never got her chance.
Judge Bennett had “heard enough.” He ruled in favor of Haberman without one document being placed into evidence.
Jurisdiction and First Amendment
It’s bad enough that Judge Bennett ordered the woman to take her blog down without allowing her to present her evidence. But then he held her accountable for all the other stories and postings about Haberman on the Internet.
I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that a judge presiding in family court, in a domestic violence case, has no jurisdiction over the Internet.
Plus, all of the other publishers did their own research and determined that the Haberman case was newsworthy. It’s called free speech, and it’s protected by the First Amendment.
Haberman was the one who originally sought media attention. He sent stories of his adventures in Iraq (highly exaggerated) to his high school newspaper. Then he tried to get television coverage of his return visit to his high school in Dallas.
But when the media started publishing the truth, he didn’t like it.
The Florida cyberstalking statute defines the crime as electronic harassment that serves “no legitimate purpose.”
Haberman’s ex-wife said her purpose in writing about him was to expose him as a con artist. Believe me, it is a legitimate purpose.
People like Haberman rarely get arrested or prosecuted. I hear horror stories all the time of predators getting away with victimizing people. They run up credit cards and leave the victims with the debts. They falsely accuse their ex-spouses of being unfit parents and win full custody of children. They bleed their victims of assets, and then harass them through the courts, when the victims can’t afford to defend themselves.
Then the victims get no justice from the legal system.
Victims are frustrated. They’ve been had, and they know the predator is going to do it again. They at least want to warn others about the person who conned them, hoping to save someone else from the devastation they suffered.
I’ve seen that exposing con artists works. People have contacted Lovefraud, expressing gratitude for the warnings about Haberman. They avoided becoming victims.
To me, posting the truth about a predator on the Internet is more than legitimate. It’s a public service.
Additional Lovefraud coverage of this case
Haberman keeps the con going (April 2006)