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A Santa Clara County, Calif., prosecutor, undaunted by one judge’s rejection of his Internet stalking case, set out Monday to convince a jury that a Fremont, Calif., man was tormenting a Michigan couple from half a continent away. In opening statements, Deputy District Attorney Frank Berry Jr. explained how he would link defendant Jeff Vijay to a threatening e-mail sent from an Internet terminal at a San Jose public library. The case, being tried before Judge Ronald Lisk, is part of an effort by Santa Clara’s High-Tech Crime Unit to crack down on crimes committed under cover of Internet anonymity. But Santa Clara prosecutors may find it a tough sell. In April, Santa Clara Superior Judge Marliese Kim dismissed the case against Vijay during a preliminary hearing, citing insufficient evidence. Prosecutors took the matter to the grand jury, and Vijay was indicted in May for making terrorist threats. On Dec. 2, 1999, Sumito Mulchandani, a financial analyst in Michigan, received an e-mail from [email protected]ni.com that referenced personal and financial data. The prosecution says the e-mail also threatened acts of dismemberment and sodomy. “You are never safe, never,” the e-mail read. “You are always at risk, you fool. Your house could be burned down in the middle of the night. Your car could spin out of control at any minute.” On Monday, Berry told jurors the investigation into the e-mail message had two phases. The first involved tracing the message through servers to its point of origin, while the second involved tying it to Vijay. “Phase one and phase two point like vectors to one person and one person only,” Berry said. Berry explained to the jury how investigators were able to trace the threatening e-mail through alumni.com to a public computer terminal at a San Jose library branch. Analyzing the content of the e-mail, Berry said they traced the e-mail to Vijay, who used to be the boyfriend of Mulchandani’s wife, Monica, before the couple married and moved to Michigan. According to the prosecution, Vijay followed the couple to Michigan and was suspected of cutting the brakes of the couple’s car and taping a bullet to their windshield. He pleaded guilty to stalking in 1994 and, after violating probation, served a two-year prison term. Judge Lisk has imposed a gag order, apparently because of press interest in the matter. But Berry told jurors that Vijay’s alibi — that he was visiting his ill father at a San Jose hospital the day the e-mail was sent — further implicates him. The San Teresa branch of the San Jose Public Library is less than a five-minute walk from the hospital. Vijay’s mother also works for the library. Defense attorney Patrick Tondreau, playing off Berry’s detailed opening statement, said the mere fact that it took prosecutors more than 20 minutes to explain their case shows it has too many holes. “You’ve now seen all the bells and whistles and high-tech gizmos go into this case,” said Tondreau. “There is not a shred of evidence that he sent that e-mail.” Tondreau, a partner with McTernan, Stender, Weingus & Tondreau in San Francisco, said the victims are blaming his client in an effort to sink a malicious prosecution case he’s brought against them. “These people are clearly willing to do and say anything in retaliation,” Tondreau told jurors. People v. Vijay, 210564, is expected to last about a week.

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