Melbourne North Station, Victoria Police Cyberstalking Investigation (Earl de Blonville, alleged victim)
Two complaints filed with Victoria Police and two FOI requests with Victoria Police
IBAC Complaint Filed by Kent Madin, #T173413562939(7) December 8, 2017
Synopsis: In 2013, I, Kent Madin of Bozeman, Montana, USA, took an interest in the professional career of Earl de Blonville, who declares himself "Australia's pre-eminent Arctic Explorer". My interest was part of research for a story I was writing about modern day "explorers" who build narratives about themselves through the internet in order to make themselves commercially viable. Mr. de Blonville was one of several explorers with common links on the internet that piqued my interest. Mr. de Blonville initially engaged with me by email but refused to answer any questions about discrepancies in his professional claims. He later asked me not to contact him (which I complied with) and in April, 2014 embarked on a campaign claiming I was a cyberstalker and he was my hapless victim. Here is confirmation of Mr. de Blonville's ownership of kentmadincyberstaker.com. My inquiries to Earl's past colleagues, sponsors, collaborators and others, made with full transparency as to my purpose and in my own name, all became illegal actions in Earl's mind. The website, earldeblonville.net is the digital version of a newspaper ad or other publicly visible announcement making my interest in Mr. de Blonville's career known to the public and a repository for information gathered. The website has been very effective establishing contacts with people knowledgable about de Blonville. After years of claiming, online and in correspondence, that Australian police were investigating me and my arrest was imminent, Earl finally persuaded a Constable in Melbourne into opening an investigation in November, 2016. This is to document the events that have proceeded from that intial investigation.
The website at the center of the cyberstalking allegation is http://www.earldeblonville.net
November 17, 2016 Constable Louise Colban takes a complaint from Earl de Blonville at the Melbourne North Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU) alleging that I, Kent Madin, am a cyberstalker and opens an investigation for cyberstalking. It appears that Mr. de Blonville failed to inform the Constable that two previous investigations on the same subject, by the Bozeman, Montana police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (US) had both concluded there was no evidence of criminal behavior.
November 28, 2016 Ten days later, Constable Colban formally requests that my hosting company remove a website of mine, earldeblonville.net, which is a compilation of research done on de Blonville's professional claims and career. Constable Colban characterizes the website as "defamatory" and that it is using private information without permission, specifically, Earl de Blonville's CV. None of those characterizations are true, as Constable Colban's Supervisor Senior Sergeant Rhonda Brown later admits.
November 28, 2016 I learn that I am being investigated for a major crime in Australia when my hosting company, following their standard policy, sends me a copy of Constable Colban's request complete with official addresses and phone numbers of Victoria Police. The hosting company informs me that they only respond to a court order and suggest I deal directly with the person making the complaint.
November 28, 2016: Concerned about whether the request is genuine, and moreover, whether Constable Colban is genuine, I call Constable Colban at her station, identify myself as the target of her investigation and offer to answer any questions she might have. She says she has none and claims she has the authority to request removal of my private property.
November 28 and Dec. 2, 2016: I send Constable Colban a couple of emails giving her some context to my involvement with Earl de Blonville and addressing her request to remove my website. I also point out that each point Colban used to justify her request to remove the site is either a: outside Police responsibility (defamation) or factually false.(see link below)
December 1, 2016, FIRST COMPLAINT FILED:. Having no response from Constable Colban, I attempt to file a complaint with the Victoria Police through their online form. After it fails to go through twice, I file the complaint directly through the email address. The complaint asks for clarification of Constable Colban's authority to request removal of private property.
January 6, 2017. I contact the Media Unit of the Victoria Police. My initial request is a hypothetical question about whether police can request the removal of private property. Leonie at the Media Unit says she cannot respond to a hypothetical. I then resend the question based on the details of Constable Colban's actions. Leonie refers me to the division that deals with books and films and that's the last I hear from anyone in the Media Unit. (see link below)
About January 6, 2017: I speak on the phone with someone in the Police Conduct Unit who advises me that I hadn't received a response to my December 1, 2016 complaint because the complaint had been forwarded to the detective sergeant in charge at Melbourne North. The woman apologized that I hadn't been notified.
Approximately January 17, 2017: I hear from Sergeant Rhonda Brown, Constable Colban's supervisor. We exchanged email about my concerns. We agree to a phone call which takes place a couple of days later and lasts about 45 minutes. I am pleased to hear from Sergeant Brown that [a]: I am not in their jurisdiction so they wouldn't pursue me anyhow and [b]: they have closed the case and there will be no further action taken. I note that no one ever even interviewed me, the alleged criminal. Sgt. Brown allows that they do that when the "facts" indicate. I am assured by Sgt. Brown that the case is closed and over, the investigative file will not be forwarded to either the prosecution division or Interpol. Quoting Sgt. Brown's email: "The investigation by D/S/C Colban is now completed and no further action will be pursued by Victoria Police." Sgt. Brown describes the investigation as a "fact-finding effort". I question what facts would have been discovered by requesting the destruction of my property.
I press Sergeant Brown to confirm that Colban's actions were consistent with proper police procedure. She dodges that request for confirmation and attempts to portray the request to remove the website as just a suggestion, something that is up to the hosting company to decide. This portrayal flies in the face of the actual words, in black and white, in the request. I agree to strongly disagree with Sgt. Brown's characterization of Colban's effort to have my private property confiscated. (see links below)
February 1, 2017: I file an FOI request with the Victoria Police for a copy of the investigation file. I make it clear that I am not trying to damage Sgt. Brown or Constable Colban, but am determined to get an answer to the question of whether the request to confiscate my property was proper police conduct. I point out to the FOI Manager, Robin Davey, that evidence of police misconduct is one of the areas that cannot be exempted from an FOI request, per Australian law.
Around March, 2017: My request is turned down.
Around April, 2017: I request a review. The original denial is reviewed and then denied again. Both denials make the point that the police contact has characterized the case as "unsolved" when "no further police action" and "no offense detected" were all options for characterizing the case and would have been consistent with Sgt. Brown's characterization. The "unsolved" characterization is what causes Davey to deny any part of the file because it might jeopardize further investigation.
Early August, 2017: I have a telephone conversation with staff at IBAC. I explain the situation and they recommend that I file a second complaint specific to the issue of how the file was characterized as "unsolved" before filing a complaint with IBAC.
August 2, 2017: I file a SECOND complaint with Victoria Police specifically regarding the characterization of the investigation where I was the target as "unsolved". I receive an automated email receipt.
September 7, 2017: I request an update from Victoria Police about my SECOND complaint. I receive an automated email receipt.
December 6, 2017. I request, yet again, some response or update from the Victoria Police about my second complaint. I receive a response from Nick Konstantinidis saying that no action will be taken. In the text of his response, it is clear he is referring to the FIRST complaint. I respond pointing out that difference. I receive an automated email receipt.
December 7, 2017: I file a complaint with the IBAC emphasizing my concern about a: police misconduct in regards to Colban's effort to have my property taken down and b: dimissal of that issue by Sgt. Brown and c: characterization of the investigation as "unsolved" which effectivly blocks the FOI request.
December 28, 2017: IBAC responds that they have chosen not to investigate or refer the complaint since they are very busy.
March 14, 2018: At the suggestion of the FOI Commissoner's office, I file a second FOI request, for both the investigative file and the documentation created by my first FOI request. I am informed that I should hear back on my request no later than April 28, 2018. On May 1, 2018 I ask when I might get my response. I am informed the decision is on the manager's desk for signature. On May 7th I write again. No response.
May 24, 2018: Unlike my previous request, where I was responded to via email, I receive a notice of decision by snail mail. The decision is signed April 5, 2018. The decision arrives 50 days after the decision was signed. I am told that in order to receive a portion of the material I asked for, I need to pay $22.10. Had I been advised on April 5 that I would owe $22.10, I could have arranged for that payment immediately. Nevertheless, I make arrangements to have the fee paid. I request that the FOI office send me the documents I paid for via email. The FOI office responds by saying they will send the document snail mail. http://earldeblonville.net/E%20string%20VicPOl%20FOI%20second%20request%20for%20investigative%20file.pdf
The question at the heart of this complaint is simple: Can a police officer use her official status to request the removal of private property absent any court order or absent any obvious, immediate threat of physical danger or threat to public safety?
If that is acceptable police policy, Sgt. Brown could have confirmed as much, in writing, which I urged her to do. Instead Sgt. Brown's explanation flies in the face of the clear facts and Colban's own words in the request.
I filed an FOI request in the belief that the unusual aspects of this case (cyberstalking, alleged criminal outside the country, botched investigative procedures, investigation dropped without any interview of "criminal") would be reflected in the documents that make up the investigative file and shed light on the question.
When, as a police officer, you get a phone call from the supposed criminal who knows about your investigation because you unwittingly revealed it and the "criminal" wants to know if you are acting within the bounds of police procedure, there's a very good chance that the investigative file will reflect discussion between yourself and your supervisor for guidance. If those discussions involved any element of sweeping the issue under the table that would be police misconduct. Evidence of police misconduct cannot be withheld from an FOI request. The file will also contain the emails that I, the "criminal" sent to Constable Colban giving her context. Those emails would presumably have been shared and commented upon within the department.
Another reason why I suspect poor judgement at the minimum and police misconduct at the worst, is that Constable Colban began the investigation on November 17, 2016. At the heart of the complaint was the website I own, earldeblonville.net. One of the first facts conveyed in the allegation would be that I am a citizen and resident of the United States. The information on that website can be fact-checked by anyone with a computer, more so if you are a police person. Yet 10 days later, more than enough time to spot check the supposedly "defamatory" claims on the website and more than enough time to arrange to interview me, a suspect living outside Victoria Police jurisdiction, Constable Colban makes an effort to remove that site, without notifying me or requesting that I remove it. It appears that she had no idea I would find out about her request.
Constable Colban had to know, as a trained policewoman, that defamation is not a criminal matter.
In addition to not fact-checking the website, she failed to fact check the allegations made by Earl de Blonville : 1. That the CV in questions was taken from his private page. This is factually false and could have been clarified by contacting me. Earl de Blonville uploaded his CV to Academia.edu and it is crystal clear from that site's Terms that anything uploaded is for public review. Furthermore, there is a specific button which encourages downloading items like the CV.. 2. That de Blonville had previously requested to the same company, that the site be taken down. This assertion is also factually false since de Blonville contacted the URL registrar, not the hosting company. Sergeant Brown dismissed these issues by saying, in effect, the Constable was just repeating what de Blonville had alleged. The police just parrot, without fact checking, "facts" presented for destroying private property?
It is disconcerting to think that a Victoria Police constable would attempt to confiscate private property with no due process and based on unverified "facts" and inappropriate characterizations.
Regarding the actions of Sgt. Brown:
Both in writing and on the phone Sgt. Brown emphasized that the investigation was complete, over, done, no further action would be taken. She gave two reasons for ending the investigation without interviewing me, the alleged criminal. First, that I was out of the jurisdiction of the Victoria Police. While factual, that statement is disingenous given that an investigation was begun with the full knowledge that I was out of their jurisdiction. Being familiar with how these things are supposed to work, I pressed the Sgt. about whether she was forwarding the investigative file to any prosecutorial arm of the Victoria government or to Interpol. She made it clear on the phone and in email that it was not being forwarded. Had Sgt. Brown found evidence to support the cyberstalking allegation, passing the file to Interpol for action would have been the proper response. So saying that I am out of jurisdiction is just a way of saying "we found nothing criminal".
The second reason given was that "if the evidence doesn't support interviewing the alleged criminal, then we don't interview them". Again, a simple "we found no evidence of a crime" would have been a more accurate answer.
Here's a quote from Sgt. Brown's email of January 17, 2017: "The investigation by D/S/C Colban is now completed and no further action will be pursued by Victoria Police." (My emphasis in color)
Yet, in response to my FOI request for access to the investigation file, Mr. Davey says his hands are tied because the Melbourne North Police station characterizes the investigation as "unsolved". As I understand it from Mr. Davey, had the investigation been characterized by one of the other choices ("no further police action" and "no offense detected") Mr. Davey could have proceeded with processing the request. Clearly, "no further police action" and "no offense detected" are all more consistent with the finding "and no further action will be pursued by Victoria Police" than "unsolved".
Another particularly vexing aspect of this affair is that there is now, permanently, a file that links my name to cyberstalking. This, in spite of the fact that no proof of any threat was ever provided (one of the defining elements of cyberstalking is a credible and purposeful threat of physical or emotional injury). And this in spite of the fact that the police closed the investigation without even contacting me. All that speaks to it having been a baseless allegation in the first place.
Constable Colban's request for removal of my website, earldeblonville.net:
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To whom it may concern
My name is Louise COLBAN and I am a Senior Constable of Police from
Melbourne North Criminal Investigation Unit which is part of Victoria
Police in Australia. I have carriage of a cyberstalking investigation where
Earl DE BLONVILLE is listed as the victim. I am requesting the removal of a
website which you are currently hosting, http://earldeblonville.net.
The website is one facet of the investigation. The website itself is
defamatory (libel) in nature and utilises material from DE BLONVILLE's own
website without his permission, specifically his curriculum vitae.
Earl DE BLONVILLE has previously contacted you himself however you were
unable to assist. He has also sent a 'cease to desist' request to Kent
MADIN to have the site removed however this was not complied with.
I request that this website be removed.
Louise COLBAN | Senior Constable 37341 - North Melbourne CIU|
email: firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com> |
web address: www.police.vic.gov.au<http://www.police.vic.gov.au/content.asp?Document_ID=2>
phone: (03) 8379 0886| fax: (03) 8379 0887 | dx: 211387
address: 36 Wreckyn Street, North Melbourne 3051
Further examination of Constable Colban's request to Nearly Free Speech:
"The website itself is defamatory (libel) in nature" Defamation is a civil matter as Sgt. Brown has agreed. By what authority does Constable Colban make what is, in and of itself, a statement defaming my property? Defamation is a matter for the civil courts an avenue that Mr. de Blonville has chosen not to pursue.
and utilises material from DE BLONVILLE's own
website without his permission, specifically his curriculum vitae. I downloaded the CV in question from Academia.edu. All material on that site is public information, as the terms of service at Academia.edu make clear. This screen print shows that Mr. de Blonville had the CV uploaded and available to ANYONE who visited his Academia.edu page.
Earl DE BLONVILLE has previously contacted you himself however
unable to assist. This is factually false and something that Colban should have confirmed before repeating it. Earl contacted Tucows, the company that registers the URL, an entirely different company and NOT the web hosting company, Nearly Free Speech. This is the email exchange with Tucows.
He has also sent a 'cease to desist' request to Kent
MADIN to have the site removed however this was not complied with. Earl's cease and desist letter has no legal weight. It was responded to here. A cease and desist letter is generally sent as a precursor to filing a civil lawsuit. A civil lawsuit for defamation has been an option available to Mr. de Blonville for 5 years and something he has repeatedly insisted he was about to do.
I request that this website be removed." Sgt. Brown says Colban "requested through the website host to remove the material if it was found to be in breach of their policy or legislation relevant to their jurisdiction. This is a matter for the host website to assess the request and make a decision regarding compliance of the material." In fact, no such language can be found in Colban's request. Colban builds her case for removal in several steps. She establishes, falsely, that two prior efforts have been made to have the site removed. With her authority as a police constable she declares that the site is defamatory and contains stolen material. Then she requests the site be removed. This is obviously an effort using Colban's official status to accomplish what Colban herself claims de Blonville failed to do. Why would Colban or Brown assume that de Blonville's claimed request for removal hadn't triggered the web host to examine the material for "breach of their policy"? And if that happened already and the site is still up, why would Colban feel it appropriate to influence the web hosting company with her police authority over an issue the hosting company has already addressed with de Blonville's request?
Colban is piling on in support of de Blonville's
allegation without ever having contacted the owner of the property. The request
is an egregious abuse of her position and authority and needs to be recognized