The protective order Ahmad Kazzelbach had taken out against his ex-girlfriend was doing no good, he told police in late 2016, saying she continued to send him threatening texts and emails.
But it was the Pasadena man who was sending the messages all along, after hacking the woman’s accounts. He weaponized the court system to get back at her, filing false criminal charges nearly 20 times over the course of a year, resulting in his ex being arrested twice and spending a total of four nights in jail.
At his sentencing Monday, U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar said Kazzelbach, 26, “waged war” against his former partner, calling it a harrowing story of harassment in the digital age. But he said he was particularly disturbed by Kazzelbach’s lies to law enforcement and judges.
Bredar imposed a sentence of four years in prison, going above the sentencing guidelines and the recommendation of federal prosecutors that he serve three years.
“This was a shameless abuse of the justice process, a process that at its core depends on people telling the truth,” Bredar said. “It’s important that when such a person is detected and caught, the consequences be severe. The system depends on it.”
Kazzelbach, who pleaded guilty to cyberstalking and improper access of a computer charges, apologized during the hearing to the victim, who said she is still fearful. “This is over, you are safe. You will never hear from me again,” Kazzelbach told her.
Kazzelbach and the woman, who The Sun is not identifying because she is a victim of harassment, were co-workers and started dating, and eventually moved in together. The relationship ended in early 2016. In the summer of that year, the woman first saw suspicious activity on her social media and email accounts, and she contacted Anne Arundel County Police.
Kazzelbach, it would later be determined, had changed her e-mail contact information on several accounts to a fake account in her name that he controlled. He entered her apartment, for which he was still on the lease, and ransacked it and took items. He also changed her personal healthcare information and interfered with her work, nearly costing her job.
“He was basically harassing me from every angle,” she told the court Monday.
On September 30, 2016, the woman received a threatening text from a Florida-based number: “Prepare yourself for what’s coming ... the last 3 months were just the beginning. I have bigger plans for you .... I love how easily manipulated you can be.”
Kazzelbach first filed for a domestic violence protective order from the woman in early December 2016, saying he had received violent threats from her via text message and social media, and that she had physically abused him as well. A temporary protective order was issued by a judge.
“I thought, there’s no way he can prove any of this, because I didn’t do it,” she told Bredar on Monday.
Before a hearing on that protective order took place, however, he filed an application for a statement of charges against her, saying that she continued to harass and threaten him in violation of the temporary order, and an arrest warrant was issued.
Kazzelbach called Anne Arundel police each of the next two days, showing officers threatening text messages that he said she’d sent him. Two more arrest warrants were issued. He called again four days after that, resulting in another warrant.
The hearing on the protective order was held on Dec. 29, and the woman “categorically denied committing any of the conduct underlying Kazzelbach’s request for a protective order,” according to court records. But District Court Judge John P. McKenna Jr. nevertheless issued a final protective order, requiring the woman to stay away from Kazzelbach.
The woman was arrested on a warrant on Jan. 3, and was served with the other cases. She spent two nights in jail.
“He was using the law to harass me, and succeeding,” she told Bredar on Monday.
Kazzelbach called police again on Jan. 4, reporting more harassing texts. But the woman was locked up at the time, and couldn’t have sent them. Cell phone records showed no activity between their phones.
Kazzelback continued to report threats from the woman, and police continued to issue charges.
He wasn’t simply a jilted lover, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Izant told Bredar - by this point, Kazzelbach had gotten married to another woman. “This is not a crime committed in the heat of passion,” Izant said.
In March 2017, a prosecutor from the State’s Attorney’s Office for Anne Arundel County asked for permission to download Kazzelbach’s iPhone in connection with the investigation of his complaints, and when he said he would only allow a limited search, they dismissed charges against the woman.
Kazzelbach continued to file charges against the woman, switching to authorities in Baltimore County. The woman was arrested for a second time in June 2017, and forced to wear an ankle bracelet.
Baltimore County police investigated the claims, and found that Kazzelbach’s phone had almost no data on it, and its contact number was the same number that the woman’s accounts had been switched to after they were compromised.
Asked why his phone data was sparse, he said he had a routine of deleting information. He admitted knowing about “spoofing,” in which someone sends an email that appears to come from someone else, and that he had used a spoofing web site.
FBI agents arrested Kazzelbach in January 2019, and he admitted to hacking into her accounts and sending the spoofed messages. He said he’d switched from Anne Arundel County to Baltimore County because he “didn’t like” the way Anne Arundel authorities were “treating” him, according to his guilty plea.
Speaking to Bredar on Monday, the woman said her family helped her get a lawyer and contacted the FBI when the harassment didn’t cease.
“I could still be jail right now. He could’ve succeeded. That’s the scariest part,” she said.
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