ENCINITAS — Law enforcement has opened an investigation into a slew of anonymous posts threatening physical and sexual violence against several local women in an online discussion board, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
Both law enforcement and residents have reported parallels between the language used in several anonymous posts on the Blogger forum Encinitas Undercover and public Facebook statements by former Encinitas mayoral candidate Jeff Morris.
Sgt. Heather Bruton of the sheriff’s North Coastal Station confirmed they had received multiple complaints of online harassment related to the anonymous posts and continue to investigate the matter.
Morris’ attorney denies that his client is the author of the anonymous posts.
A judge on May 5 granted a local woman’s third request for a temporary restraining order against Morris, whom she claims is behind a series of “slanderous” and sexually violent statements under the pseudonyms “Anonymous” and “Nobody” on Encinitas Undercover.
The woman, who requested to be called “NS” out of fear of retaliation and harassment, believes the alleged conduct originated after she was vocal in her opposition to Morris’ mayoral candidacy in last year’s election.
Morris served as administrator of the private Facebook group Encinitas Watchdogs for years, a page focused on local politics that mysteriously vanished from social media last month.
In addition to Facebook posts, NS alleges Morris is the author of numerous postings using the alias “Anonymous” on Encinitas Undercover, threatening to rape her and saying that “payback is coming.”
Blogger permits anyone to comment under the name “Anonymous,” and most of the comments on Encinitas Undercover are posted anonymously.
None of the anonymous posts have been definitively linked to Morris. However, NS claims both Morris and Anonymous use the exact words in online posts across social media platforms to target the same individuals, such as “Depends Undergarments,” “bionic,” “squeeze,” “faux,” “fleas,” “skank” and “cesspool.”
Most anonymous statements targeting NS and other local women also appear steeped in acrimony over the city’s recent mayoral election.
In November’s mayor race, Morris finished third with 24.52% (or 6,969 votes) behind candidates Cindy Cremona (25.5%) and winner Tony Kranz (47%).
Some anonymous posts directed at NS also contained sexually violent threats and racial epithets, including repeated use of the n-word to describe NS (a white female) and other individuals.
“It’s pretty evident there were a number of postings against my client that are libelous, threatening, and no woman should have to live under a system where that is tolerated,” said Leslie Akins, attorney for NS. “Not any part of it was protected political speech, there was no political content. The commentary was wholly repugnant.”
But there appears to be no evidence showing Morris has made sexually violent threats or used the n-word in his public-facing comments on social media.
In an April 26 post on Encinitas Undercover, an anonymous post threatened violence against former mayoral candidate Cindy Cremona and former District 2 City Council candidate Susan Turney.
“When I win this election, were (sic) going to start 2 hunting seasons. Starting December 1st, Cremona, Turney, anybody on their team..can also be hunted…Happy Hunting Encinitas!!! Remember, 10 round magazine max!!!”
Turney told The Coast News she hopes “the IP addresses are released so that the public can know who authored the posts in question.”
Despite several attempts, The Coast News could not get a statement from the individual who operates Encinitas Undercover. The identity of the blog’s administrator is unknown.
More posts, different targets
In another series of online attacks, an anonymous author targeted a different local woman, repeatedly calling her “trailer trash” and “skank.” In addition, some posts published her phone number with a message soliciting sex and threatening to contact her employer.
The unknown author extended the threats and harassment to the woman’s family, calling her minor child the “Bastard of Encinitas,” publishing his full name and high school, threatening violence, and using derogatory terms related to obesity and Down syndrome when describing the adolescent.
Several commenters have responded to statements by Anonymous on Encinitas Undercover, identifying the author as Morris and sometimes referring to him as “Stan.” Anonymous refers to Morris in the third person in other posts, often speaking about him favorably.
A sheriff’s report obtained by The Coast News, which included statements by NS and investigative notes, also noted similarities in the language used by Morris on Facebook and in the anonymous blog posts.
“The (anonymous) posts speak very well of Morris and seem to be written by an admirer or friend,” Sheriff’s Deputy Craig Skakowski writes in the report. “Additionally, many of the responses to the inflammatory posts mention that the author is Morris…It seems to be a known fact that Morris authors the anonymous posts.
“Based on the way Morris is mentioned, the tone and style of the anonymous posts related to Encinitas Watchdogs posts, and considering all the references and information, I believed Morris was the author of the ‘Anonymous’ posts mentioning (NS).”
‘It’s almost to the point of civil harassment’
Over the last six months, NS has unsuccessfully sought protective orders against Morris on two occasions, one of which resulted in Morris temporarily surrendering his firearms, including several pistols, rifles and a shotgun.
A judge dismissed the second TRO request on Dec. 21, just days before Morris was arrested at his home following an alleged domestic violence incident on Christmas Day.
On April 10, prosecutors dismissed all misdemeanor domestic violence charges against Morris — corporal injury to a spouse, battery and false imprisonment — due to a lack of evidence, citing law enforcement’s inability to locate witnesses to the alleged incident.
According to court filings, in a May 3 post in the Facebook group Encinitas Uncensored, Morris wrote about the situation: “Don’t worry, I got my guns back…beat the corrupt Sheriffs, now I’m coming for the Encinitas Illuminati. I don’t lose to SCUM…Fools shouldn’t be lying to the judge. I’m not done with her (NS) yet.”
Paul Neuharth, Morris’ longtime attorney, adamantly denied NS’s accusations, claiming her continued requests for court-ordered protection against Morris border on harassment.
“My client denies any interaction and doesn’t have anything to do with that,” Neuharth told The Coast News. “She is seeking a TRO (temporary restraining order) based on anonymous postings, and she’s trying to attribute the anonymous postings to my client. It’s almost to the point of civil harassment now.”
The judge’s temporary order prohibits Morris from making or posting slanderous remarks and statements “inciting violent acts or hate-based acts” against NS.
According to Neuharth, Morris no longer interacts on those social media pages and shut down his accounts several months ago.
“I’m sorry that some people seem to resent his entry into the Encinitas mayoral race so much that they will not drop the political criticism and vitriol,” Neuharth said. “There is no proof to substantiate (NS’s) claims, and Mr. Morris has not been served.”
According to law enforcement and sources familiar with the investigation, the Court Services Bureau has been unable to serve Morris the temporary restraining order despite several visits to his residence.
A hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on May 30 to determine if a permanent order will be granted, although sources have said the court date will likely be postponed.
If the order has not been served within five days before May 30, the order will become renewable for another 30 days.