A recent magazine feature on a man with Asperger syndrome who's currently in jail for pining after the girl of his dreams — who, in his mother's words, "became a nightmare" since he met her 20 years ago — implies that he's the real victim. The woman he's stalked since middle school feels differently.
Here's how Atlanta Magazine introduces us to the players:
A mentally ill Smyrna man has been sitting in Cobb County jail for nineteen months without bond for essentially mailing legal papers to a junior-high crush he hadn’t seen for almost fifteen years.
And even though a Cobb County Superior Court judge dismissed his indictment on the charge of aggravated stalking three weeks ago, thirty-four-year-old Michael Lake is still awaiting his day in court. “My fear is that Michael has not been afforded the protections he is entitled to as an American citizen,” says Cynthia Counts, a prominent Atlanta first amendment attorney who has taken an interest in the case. “I think the justice system has somehow failed him here. And if it can happen to him, it could happen to anyone.”
It all started 20 years ago in junior high, when "Leslie" was nice to nerdy Michael in class and signed his yearbook even though they weren't good friends. He basically proceeded to follow her around and harass her for the rest of her life — first in high school, then, after her mom got an injunction against him, after college once it expired. When she got divorced, he reached out to her again through LinkedIn, after which she asked him to stop contacting her. When he didn't, things escalated until he ended up in jail because a judge felt he posed a “significant risk of contacting or intimidating the witness."
Counts alleges that Leslie didn't want to put up with Michael's advances because he's troubled. “You don’t use the justice system to deal with fears of future conduct due to mental illness,” she said. ”In (Leslie's) mind, he's distasteful, and that’s not a basis to lock someone up—especially for nineteen months. So Michael remains in jail to this day over words and a love that, although misguided, has violated no law.”
“He fell in love and didn’t seem to be able to get over it,” his mother said. “The girl of his dreams became a nightmare.”
Horrible, right? But that's not exactly how it went down, according to Leslie. Biscuette spoke with her lawyers and read court documents to bring us a rather different story that includes details the Atlanta piece conveniently left out, such as:
After Leslie moved to Atlanta and became Mrs. Tagye in 2006, Michael Lake also moved to Atlanta. He set up a website dedicated to intimidating Leslie with petitions such as, “It’s not too late to annul your marriage! Marry Michael Leslie, Leslie.” He tried to sell these petitions on t-shirts through a Cafe Press tab located on his website.
Despite the fact that Leslie has never had physical contact, a friendship or even a relationship with Lake, he has persisted in tracking her, contacting her and abusing his rights to strip them away from her.
When Leslie divorced her husband in 2011, Lake wrote congratulatory announcements on his website. And he finally found her on LinkedIn. After Lake contacted her through direct messages, entreating her to meet him at a pizza parlor either near her place of employment or her place of residence — indicating he knew where she worked and lived — she broke her silence.
According to court documents, "Lake had so much indirect contact with Leslie’s mother, Nancy Pelotte, through the United Way website where he made libelous claims about Pelotte and called her a 'would-be murderer' that United Way had to take down their website for a time, Hughes said." He also threatened to kill her, which led Leslie to file a TPO against Lake in October 2011. "He was arrested and charged with aggravated stalking in November 2011 after sending a thick packet of documents defining stalking, explaining why he was not a stalker and attempting to tell Leslie that she was paranoid, according to court documents." So: not exactly the random legal papers Atlanta noted.
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) found that 76 percent of intimate partner femicides (homicide of women) had been stalked in the year prior to their death. Sure, Leslie and Michael have never been intimate partners — but that's not how Michael feels.