Utah Phone Company for Deaf Sues Lewd Caller Who Has Called Over 300 Times

A Utah telecommunications firm for the deaf has filed a lawsuit against a man who they say has made over 300 obscene phone calls to employees.

Sorenson Communications, founded in 2000 and based in Salt Lake City, provides telecommunications relay services, including free video relay, to people who are deaf and hearing-impaired.

Beginning around July 18, the defendant, named "John Doe" in the suit, has called at least 30 Sorenson employees over 300 times through the customer-based phone system. The caller is "especially targeting female employees, using obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious, or indecent language, making proposals of an obscene and sexual nature, or leaving pornographic voicemail messages."

"We just want relief from this harassing individual," said Ann Bardsley, public relations director for Sorenson Communications, who has worked for the company for six years.

The defendant has identified himself as "Rick Smith" to several employees, but the company has been unable to confirm if that is his real name. The suit states that the company believes the caller provided a false name to disguise his identity.

Sorenson is suing "John Doe" for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, electronic communication harassment according to Utah's laws, and for willful and malicious acts, among other claims.

The suit said the defendant has cost the company "time and other resources to respond to false Video Relay Service calls, taking away efforts and resources that should be directed to bona fide deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind, and speech disabled customers contacting Sorenson for legitimate products and services."

The caller has made calls and recorded voicemail messages from different telephone accounts provided by Verizon Wireless with the area code "916" which is from the area around Sacramento, Calif., according to the suit.

In pursuant with the available legal channels, the company filed a lawsuit wih the U.S. district court in Utah on Sept. 19 with the aim to subpoena the phone company to discover the identity of the caller.

Paul Kershisnik, chief marketing officer, said employees reported the calls. The caller has called at least one female employee up to six times a day.

The company, which Bardsley says has several thousand employees, is not sure why this person is targeting the company and they have been disruptive.

"Like any company, we do a fair amount of business over the telephone," she said.

The caller "has engaged in heavy breathing, and has communicated obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious, or indecent language. During such calls, the Defendant has also made proposals of an obscene and sexual nature," the suit states.

Since filing the suit, however, Bardsley said she is not aware of the defendant calling the company recently.

"We hope it will bring us closer to a resolution," she said. "We are just waiting to see."

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