May 30, 2014

Markuze Enters Guilty Plea

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Flag of the City of Montreal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Atheist bloggers are going to encounter trolls on their blogs, and unless their commenting systems are far more effective than the one I use, readers will encounter trolls when at least a few of their comments get through. This is certainly not specific to atheism; however, the public's negative attitudes toward atheism seem to ensure that we will receive plenty of attention from trolls. Many are Christian, most are harmless, and some are struggling with mental health problems. A rare few cross the line from mere annoyance to potential threat.

Long-time readers and others who have been active in the online atheist community for the past few years may remember Dennis Markuze (aka, David Mabus). He was by far the most prolific troll of atheist blogs I have come across. He left comments here for some time and sent me countless emails, a few of which contained threats of violence. In 2010 and 2011, it seemed that practically every atheist blogger was familiar with his antics.

The content of Markuze's communications painted a picture of someone who might have serious mental health problems. Although there was insufficient evidence to be certain, this would not stop bloggers without mental health training to offer all sorts of wild speculations. As Markuze became increasingly threatening, it was clear that ignoring him was no longer a viable option. A number of atheist bloggers alerted the Montreal Police. Although they initially seemed reluctant to do so, a bit of public pressure helped to persuade them. The seriousness of the threat posed by Markuze became even clearer when he was sighted at an atheist convention. In 2011, he was arrested on charges including criminal harassment.

What started as little more than speculation about what mental health problems Markuze might be suffering from would soon receive a boost when a court-ordered evaluation was scheduled. This evaluation resulted in a diagnosis. Markuze would finally receive help in the form of treatment.

Sadly, the help he received at this time was not enough. Markuze was arrested again in 2012 for more of the same. And once again, the police were reluctant to take action until the atheist community applied pressure. He pled guilty this week to charges dating back to 2012 including harassment, threatening a police officer, and violating the terms of his probation.

I sincerely hope that Markuze will now receive the help and supervision he needs, that it will be more successful this time, and that he will be able to better manage his mental health problems going forward. He likely has a difficult road ahead.

The online atheist community owes a debt of gratitude to Tim Farely (Skeptical Software Tools) for his work to identify Markuze as the man behind Mabus, compile the evidence that would allow law enforcement to act, and continue tracking the case for us.

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