British Columbia

Ex-wife admits to provoking accused online harasser, says she hit back with sarcasm

An Arizona woman who alleges she was systematically attacked online by her ex was cross-examined in B.C. Supreme Court Wednesday, exposing the toxic tit-for-tat that escalated into a criminal harassment case.

'None of this was a game. This was my life,' said Desiree Capuano in court today

A website aimed at "destroying" Desiree Capuano included vulgar comments and intimate pictures. (CBC)

An Arizona woman who alleges she was systematically attacked online by her ex was cross-examined in B.C. Supreme Court Wednesday, exposing the toxic tit-for-tat that escalated into a criminal harassment case.

Desiree Capuano, 36, admitted she responded to insults, profanity and angry diatribes in kind because she believed she needed to stand up to a man committed to "destroy" her life with a revenge website after a bitter custody dispute led to his deportation from the U.S.

Patrick Fox, 43, is charged with criminal harassment and two firearms charges.

He admits posting a revenge website after his former wife got him deported from the U.S., but says nothing he did was illegal because the content was true and he never threatened violence.

Capuano, who was tearful during her initial testimony, spoke with a voice that did not waver during cross-examination.

"Sure, I provoked him a bit," she said in court. "I also never put up a website or attacked him." 

Desiree Capuano lives in Arizona with two sons. (CBC)

Court-appointed counsel Tony Lagemaat cross-examined Capuano for Fox, who is representing himself in this case.

Lagemaat suggested that both Fox and Capuano, whose marriage ended in 2001, willingly engaged in cutting "witty banter" — both to the point of obsession, exchanging upwards of 450 emails over the years.

But Lagemaat said there was no hint of violence, despite Capuano's earlier testimony that she feared her ex, who owned guns, would sneak back into the U.S. and potentially hurt her.

Lagemaat also mentioned that the couple's son asked Fox if he would ever shoot Capuano, but Fox explained that while he'd have "no qualms" about shooting her, he knew murder was illegal.

Lagemaat reviewed emails written between 2014 and 2015, often dozens in a day, where Capuano responded to profane, angry attacks from Fox who repeatedly called her "trailer trash," a bad mother and a white supremacist with mental health issues.

'Why didn't you just leave it?'

In response to repeated insults, Capuano mocked and belittled Fox in return saying he's a "little man" with "delusions" and "mommy issues."

She accused him of being an obsessed stalker who can't let her go.

"Why do you provoke and insult him?" asked Lagemaat in court. "Why didn't you just leave it?"

Capuano said she endured abuse for years and had to communicate with Fox as a court had ordered they share custody of their son.

As for her counter-attacks, she said she eventually felt compelled to fight back.

Capuano insulted Fox, addressed him like a child, said he'd grown up in a trailer, took drugs and got his taste for satin sheets from his "trashy prostitute" mother.

She accused Fox of taking drugs, lashing out like an "impotent child" and of harbouring a sick obsession for her that was kind of "cute."

Desiree Capuano says she tried everything to stop her former partner from attacking her online but nothing worked. (KVOA/Tucson)

Lagemaat went over hours of sarcastic exchanges, then asked Capuano why she would respond to Fox like this if she was afraid of him.

"It was bravado. I am defending myself. I don't want him to know that I'm scared," she said in court, adding that she wanted her teenage son, whom Fox copied on many of the emails, to see his mother stand up for herself.

She denied Lagemaat's suggestion that this was a game.

She said fears escalated when she learned that Fox allegedly had guns in Canada and was so intent on "tearing her down" that he posted her home address and even images of her other son, from another husband, in his underwear online.

"None of this was a game. This was my life," she said.

Cross-examination of Capuano continues tomorrow.