June 7, 2002 at 6:27 PM EST - Updated July 3 at 1:40 AM
CLEVELAND (AP) - A man who says he was infatuated with a television reporter was found guilty in what is believed to be the state's first conviction under a federal stalking law expanded to include the Internet.
A jury deliberated less than an hour Thursday before convicting Eric Bowker, 39, of Youngstown, of telephone harassment, using the Internet to threaten a person, stealing mail and interstate stalking.
He faces the possibility of 10 years in prison when U.S. District Judge John Manos sentences him in about three months.
Prosecutors believe it is the first conviction in Ohio since the law was expanded in October 2000. When it went into effect in 1996, the federal law focused on a person who travels to stalk someone.
Bowker was charged with intimidating reporter Tina Knight, who began working at WKBN-TV in Youngstown in March 2000. He was arrested Aug. 29.
His e-mail messages became vulgar and obsessive, and Bowker began calling Knight at the station and her home, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Feran. He said Knight's family also received messages.
In October 2000, Knight left Youngstown for another television reporting job at WOWK in Charleston, W.Va., but the calls and e-mails continued. She called the FBI daily and begged police to follow her home.
"I wanted them to be aware of every little step so that if something happened to me, they would have a very strong case," Knight testified.
Defense attorney Richard Lillie said Bowker's actions were "sad, pathetic and ridiculous" but not a crime. "He was infatuated, but infatuation is not criminal," said Lillie, who plans an appeal.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)