MINNEAPOLIS, Thu Mar 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - William Melchert-Dinkel was found guilty in a Minnesota court on Mar. 15 of aiding two vulnerable people to commit suicide.
Rice County District Court Judge Thomas Neuville found the man intentionally sought depressed people online, posed as a suicidal female nurse and entered into fake suicide pacts with them.
Melchert-Dinkel, 49, a former Minnesota nurse who admitted to participating in online chats with 15 to 20 people about suicide, and entering into fake suicide pacts with about 10 people, was charged in April, 2010, with two counts of aiding suicide. One case involved the 2005 hanging death of Mark Drybrough, 32, of Conventry, England, and the other the 2008 drowning of Carlton University student Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario.
Kajouji jumped into Ottawa’s Rideau River in early March 2008. It was later revealed that she had been in conversation in an internet chat group with Melchert-Dinkel, who had been posing as a teenage girl. The man had allegedly urged Kajouji to hang herself in front of a webcam so others could watch and promised he would die with her.
Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster told the court that Melchert-Dinkel was “obsessed with suicide and hanging,” telling police after his arrest that he did it for the “thrill of the chase.”
In his ruling on Tuesday, Judge Neuville wrote, “The court finds that defendant’s speech imminently incited the victims to commit suicide, and can be described as ‘lethal advocacy,’ which is analogous to the category of unprotected speech known as ‘fighting words’ and ‘imminent incitement of lawlessness.’”
Judge Neuville reiterated a ruling he made last November on a request to dismiss the charges against Melchert-Dinkel on free speech grounds. In that decision, Judge Neuville said that the protection of free speech does not extend to online speech that encourages activities that are defined as criminal offenses by state statute.
Minnesota’s statute on aiding suicide states, “Whoever intentionally advises, encourages or assists another in taking the other’s own life may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both.”
Kajouji’s older brother expressed his approval of the decision.
“This man is being held accountable for his actions and that’s the most important thing,” Marc Kajouji told the media after the ruling. “It shows that this crime isn’t going unpunished and that’s the bottom line. It could be a deterrent for the future.”
Melchert-Dinkel’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 4; however, his lawyer has advised the media that that he will file an appeal.
Alex Schadenberg, director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said, “Melchert-Dinkel needs to be sentenced with the intention of deterring other people from similar acts. The families of Nadia Kajouji and Mark Drybrough senselessly lost a loved one to a suicide predator and they deserve a reasonable degree of justice.”