A court in Castellón, in eastern Spain, has sentenced a man to 10 years in prison for causing the death of a 17-year-old whom he harassed on social media until the latter took his own life in 2016. Vicente Paradís, 62, has also been ordered to pay €173,000 in damages to the parents and brother of the victim.
The case made headlines in July because a jury resorted to a little-known doctrine known as imputación objetiva (which links an outcome to an act that created a situation of risk) to declare the defendant guilty of homicide even though he never met his victim in person.
“The defendant created the risk, he was warned [by the victim] of the consequence that his attitude could have and he accepted the possibility of the result of death,” the prosecutor said in July.
The judge upheld the jury’s homicide verdict and sentenced Paradís to a 10-year term. The public prosecution had requested 14 years while the private prosecution wanted Paradís to serve 15 years. The family’s lawyer said the sentence is not hard enough and that they will appeal. The convicted man’s defense attorney said her client will also challenge the decision.
Paradís sent the teenager 119 threatening messages in under three hours and the jury found that he did so despite being aware of the anguish it was causing. “I’m going to teach you not to waste my time. I’m coming for you. I’m going to ruin your parents because of you,” were some of the messages he sent on Whatsapp.
The victim, identified as Iván, answered some of the messages. He began with apologies: “I will not do it again. Please, don’t do it. I’ll do whatever you want.” Finally, he began warning the man that he would take his own life. But the messages did not stop. “If you commit suicide, you will destroy you parents,” was one of the responses.
Moments later, at 6.40 pm on December 1, 2016, Iván threw himself off his building’s rooftop in Vila-real (Castellón). The court’s decision notes that “the permanent situation of harassment and emotional blackmail” suffered by the minor caused him to take his own life. Even after Iván was dead, Paradís continued to send messages and even photographs faking that he’d filed a criminal complaint against the minor.
The relationship between the convicted man and his victim began in 2016, when Iván logged onto a dating site and started talking to a man who was almost 40 years older than him. At some point the youth apparently tried to end the exchanges, and that was when the online abuse began.
“I am going to commit suicide,” wrote Iván in one of the last exchanges. “That’s your business,” was the reply. “Do you want to jump now?” These messages played a determining role in the court’s decision.