The Strange Case of “Irene Cobb”

As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to watch some daytime television just to have something contemporary to discuss, and chose the ‘court/judge’ shows as the least offensive alternative. A recent case stands out in my mind, so I just wanted to spread it out on the floor and examine it for a bit. It ties in to an upcoming post I’ve had in the works, which discusses how people drive traffic to their blogs.

This case was on Judge Christina Perez’s “dramatized court show” and involved a young, male college student who was majoring in journalism and contributed to a blog for the college to get additional credits. The young man was 26 years old and was suing a 41-year-old woman for the costs of a plane ticket and a hotel room that he purchased. The reason he was suing her for that was because she deceived him with a phony online persona, that of a 21-year-old college student. He lived in Las Vegas and she resided in southern California or Arizona, according to the details. She claimed that she didn’t force him to come see her; she “didn’t break any laws”, so she didn’t owe him anything. Here’s her background as described in the show:

  • Married, mother of two boys, ages 7 and 9.
  • Stay-at-home mom who home-schools her children.
  • Husband is a “federal firefighter” with a schedule that keeps him away from home for up to 14 days at a time.
  • Admitted to having no interests or hobbies outside of the home, and has no friends because she “doesn’t get along with other females.”

Here’s how the case progressed: the young man said that she had begun contributing to the blog he wrote. She would suggest topics, they would discuss politics, and she became a regular commenter on his blog. Over the course of two months, he became infatuated with her, especially when she sent a (phony) picture to him via email. She indicated that she was turning 21 in a few weeks and was going to be celebrating that milestone birthday, so he decided to fly out to surprise her and celebrate –he certainly got a surprise!

They had apparently exchanged home addresses and phone numbers at some point, and the young man went to her front door and knocked. A middle-aged man answered; when the younger man asked for “Irene”, the older man complied and brought ‘Mrs. Cobb’ to the door. The lie apparently grew at this point: according to the case, ‘Mrs. Cobb’ made her husband believe that the young man was an IT guy there to do some work on their computer; since he was taking their children to some private class before he set off on another 14-day mission, he didn’t ask anything further. After the husband and children were gone, ‘Mrs. Cobb’ told the ‘plaintiff’ the truth and that she was sorry that he’d wasted his time and money.

When asked by the judge why she engaged in this deceptive act, ‘Mrs. Cobb’ claimed that she created the online persona because she was “bored and needed the stimulation of adult conversation.” That excuse is quite flimsy! If you need adult conversation, fine – but do you need to lie about your age? Really? What, exactly, does that accomplish? Anyway, the young man basically went back to his hotel room – he’d paid for two nights, as this occurred on a weekend – then he flew back to Vegas and that was the end of it. The case was supposedly resolved with the judge ‘awarding’ him half of what he requested, because he did make the decision to go on his own. Since he went on a false belief, he deserved compensation because he wouldn’t have gone if he’d known the truth from the beginning.

The judge told ‘Mrs. Cobb’ that she was “a woman who had the potential to cause great harm over the internet” and offered to provide the numbers of some people that ‘Mrs. Cobb’ could “talk to in order to resolve whatever personal issues she has.” Basically, she delicately stated that the woman was nuttier than squirrel shit and should probably stay off of the computer for a while! The judge also asked what ‘Mrs. Cobb’ would have done if the young man had been someone with ulterior motives – after all, there are many predatory types out there; ‘Mrs. Cobb’ herself being that sort – and what if, gawds forbid, something had happened to her children and/or herself? ‘Mrs. Cobb’ stated: “Well, if I happened to be the survivor then I would just have to live with that guilt.” She also indicated that the young man wasn’t the only person she was corresponding with in that manner; she had two other young men she was conversing with and said that she was “conducting an experiment in a poli-sci manner” as she was writing a book and wanted to see how “online romances blossom.” Since the case is loosely based on a real one, the statements made by the ‘defendant’ are very plausible.

This is why some commenters on various blogs just make the hair on the back of my neck stand up – there’s something “not right” about what they say, and I can’t put my finger on it…there are things between the lines that come through loud and clear, which contradict what the words are saying. It’s like figuring out that author Patricia Cornwell is bipolar, well before reading about it in an article where she recently sued her financial managers. Her Kay Scarpetta character is clearly based on her, and the Scarpetta woman always struck me as being a “borderline personality” – bipolar disorder can mimic that, and is usually diagnosed as a “co-morbid” condition, almost exclusively to white females in order to give them an excuse for some really shitty behavior!

Digressing…I’m reminded of a commenter on a blog I regularly lurk on, who states in nearly every comment that “she” is a young, Black woman of 17 years old”. The thing is, “she’s” been 17 since the middle of 2011, when I started noticing “her” comments there – so it’s difficult for me to take them seriously. That’s just one of many whose comments I’ve taken to skimming over when I see them on various forums! There are many predatory people out there, male and female, and the anonymity of the interwebs makes those types far more bold than they might be IRL. I just hope that the bloggers I like use care in who they choose to support and/or promote…they might not be all that they seem.

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