- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - In a story July 23 about a man who attempted suicide after his parents say he was harassed online, The Associated Press reported erroneously the nature of the parents’ comments about their son’s online activity. William Moreno’s mother says she did not know her son was posting on the Fairfax Underground website until she underwent a security clearance review for her job. Moreno’s parents did not encourage him to join the website.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Family sues online ‘troll’ after son’s suicide attempt

Virginia family sues online ‘troll’ after hoaxes lead to son’s suicide attempt

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Virginia family says a Richmond-area man coordinated online hoaxes that included accusing their son of child rape and posting death threats in their son’s name.

The family of William Moreno, 32, filed a lawsuit in January in Fairfax County against Michael Josef Basl, 34, and an online user whose identity is unknown, The Washington Post reports (https://wapo.st/1HTo0Ix ).

In the lawsuit, the family from Sterling says Basl, a member of the online forum Fairfax Underground, was behind pranks that caused their son William to attempt suicide. The hoaxes included someone impersonating their son, writing online that he had killed his parents and would soon kill his sister. The post caused police officers to storm the family’s house.

“It was a reign of terror,” William Moreno said.

William Moreno’s parents said he has a mild form of autism and suffers from major depression.

In an interview with the newspaper, Basl denied being involved in most of the hoaxes. He called the lawsuit “frivolous.”

“I’m not responsible for the vast majority of the stuff in the lawsuit,” Basl said. “They make me out like I’m a sinister person. I’m not.”

A fellow Fairfax Underground user, Monique Wells, testified in court this year that Basl told her he was behind some of the attacks on the Morenos, including the police incident. Basl testified that her account was untrue.

“He said, ‘I did it so that Moreno could make a wrong move and get shot and killed by the police,’” Wells told a judge.

The hoaxes and threats began in 2012 and escalated over the next two years, William Moreno said.

He said some members of Fairfax Underground disliked him and held grudges against him because of offensive comments he sometimes wrote.

Moreno’s mother said the website was a natural fit for someone who has difficulty socializing in the real world. But, she said, William Moreno’s online activities were unknown to his parents until she was going through a security clearance review for her job as an intelligence contractor.

“He keeps saying over and over again, ‘Our lives are ruined,’” Sharon Moreno said of her son.


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