Kent residents Courtney and Steve Allen received a $8.9 million jury award against Todd Zonis, a stalker who used the dark web to mask his identity to threaten the couple and their 4-year-old son.
In 2012, Courtney met Zonis through an online game known as Grepolis. Upon their initial online meet, the two began exchanging text messages and maintain a friendly relationship for two consecutive years, until Courtney’s husband became aware of the relationship and requested Courtney to end her relationship with Zonis.
Ever since Courtney requested Zonis to stop contacting her in 2014, he began to harass Courtney and her family. For years, Courtney received death threats at her home and workplace. Her co-workers and employers were threatened by Zonis and he went as far as to threaten her 4-year-old son’s preschool. According to local publications including Seattle Pi, the lawyers of the Allen’s revealed that Zonis threatened her child’s preschool and planned to “shoot up the school.”
After years of death threats and harassment, Courtney began to suffer from severe anxiety and mental instability. As a result, Courtney had to receive professional help and psychological therapy for a significant period of time to cope with the daily threats of Zonis. Due to her anxiety, she wasn’t able to carry out normal operations at her workplace and home. Courtney told Seattle Pi:
“I felt we were going to have him in our lives forever. I never saw an end to it. It got to the point where doing any kind of activity was gut-wrenchingly difficult. I couldn’t function at a normal level. I felt like we had nowhere else to turn to. We decided finally that we needed to do something about it.”
Courtney and her husband finally filed their lawsuit against Zonis in June of 2015, after Steve was forced to change his jobs to avoid Zonis’ reach. However, as Zonis continued to harass Steve by impersonating other people within the company to get Steve fired, Courtney and Steve hired a law firm to file an official lawsuit against Zonis.
Filing a lawsuit against Zonis was a challenging task, to begin with because of his unravelled identity. It also made it difficult for lawyers and prosecutors to charge Zonis with hard evidence as Zonis often used the dark web to cover his identity and operations. Because is IP address remained undisclosed, very few traces were linked back to Zonis.
Moreover, attorney David Bateman revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) became involved in the case after Zonis leaved the state and continued to harass the couple in an out-of-state location with masked identity.
In 2016, Zonis was arrested and in that year, attacks and harassment from Zonis escalated as he was forced to defend himself in court. Ultimately, the 12-person King County jury found Zonis guilty of most of the charges and granted the Allen’s with a $8.9 million jury award against Todd Zonis.
“I didn’t expect to have the jury so behind us, to have actually gotten over any prejudice they might have had against me. It was really kind of amazing to hear that from the jury. I’m hoping it’s a warning to people who try to cyberstalk or harass or use images against other people. I’m hoping it’s something people will look at and realize, you can’t get away with this. This is wrong,” said Courtney.