Bungie has won close to $500,000 in damages from an individual who perpetrated a campaign of harassment and terror against a Destiny 2 community manager, and his wife, for highlighting the art of a Black community member.
The judgment was issued in default to defendant Jesse James Comer, who failed to turn up to defend themselves in the superior court of the state of Washington, where the case was heard. Comer has been directed to pay Bungie $489,435.52 in damages, costs, and legal fees, with 12% post-judgment interest being added for each and every year that the sum is left unpaid.
As reported by Polygon, Comer’s actions – which are detailed later in this article – gave the court multiple causes to award Bungie damages for the treatment of its workers. They have also inadvertently had wider legal consequences by prompting the court to recognize a new piece of common law, known as a tort.
The new precedent will allow employers to recover the costs incurred while investigating the identity of an anonymous harasser, and putting a stop to their actions, regardless of whether other causes for awarding damages are available. In Bungie’s case, those costs would have amounted to £380,189.22.
“By recognizing a new tort based on the Washington criminal statutes outlawing cyber and telephone harassment, the Court has created a path for those with the resources to identify stochastic terrorists and hold them accountable to do exactly that and recover their costs in court,” tweeted paralegal Kathryn Tewson, who was part of the legal team prosecuting the case on the behalf of Bungie.
By recognizing a new tort based on the Washington criminal statutes outlawing cyber and telephone harassment, the Court has created a path for those with the resources to identify stochastic terrorists and hold them accountable to do exactly that and recover their costs in court. pic.twitter.com/hh0r0tiegq
— Kathryn Tewson (@KathrynTewson) July 12, 2023
The details of the case can be found below, as per the court judgment.
Comer’s campaign of “racist, stochastic terrorism” against the Bungie employee began when the unnamed community manager highlighted the contributions of a Black community member as part of the company’s “My Destiny 2 Story” initiative.
The decision to spotlight the work of a person of color ”incensed” Comer, who proceeded to call the employee’s personal phone, and to leave “hideous” and “bigoted” voicemail messages. He then went on to contact that person’s spouse with similarly hateful messages, all the while using the fake name Clay Bramston.
The defendant also repeatedly asked for Bungie to create in-game options that would only allow persons of color to be killed. After sending the initial messages, Comer then sent a “virtually inedible, odiferous pizza” orders to the Bungie employee’s home.
While placing the order, Comer directed that the driver knock loudly “at least five times,” reasoning in the delivery note that the customer would be wearing headphones. Comer also made the orders payable on delivery, in an attempt to incite conflict between the employee, and the deliverer. Having tracked the order remotely Comer then called K. Doe, telling her to “enjoy the pizza,” while once again signing off as Clay Bramston.
Comer’s intent was to terrify the victim, and place them in fear of physical violence by making it clear that their aggressor knew where they, and their family lived. Comer then followed up on the threat by leaving further voice messages filled with high volume, menacing sounds, which had been given to him by a Steam group going by the name “terr0rgang.”
“Online harassment follows a predictable pattern in which a harasser will escalate from doxing – obtaining the target’s personal information in order to abuse them in real life – to contact, through to physical violence against the target,” read the judgement. “Comer’s conduct had ‘all the hallmarks of an attacker of high concern.’ “
In the wake of the threats Bungie contacted the local police department, and sent “executive protection” out to the employee to ensure their safety. The company then engaged investigators to discover Comer’s identity, and obtained a restraining order in a matter of days.
Congratulations to my clients, who stood up and fought for something that mattered.
Congratulations to my team. We made law.
And a hearty fuck you to the dregs of digital society who do real harm and believe themselves above responsibility, beyond accountability.
— D.M. Schmeyer (@dmschmeyer) July 12, 2023
Alongside paying damages, Comer has since been ordered not to contact any Bungie employee for any purpose, or seek to harass or intimidate any Destiny 2 community member, whether they be a “streamer, artist, or other content creator.”
“Congratulations to my clients, who stood up and fought for something that mattered,” tweeted attorney Dylan Schmeyer, who represented Bungie in the case. Congratulations to my team. We made law. And a hearty f**k you to the dregs of digital society who do real harm and believe themselves above responsibility, beyond accountability. You aren’t.”
If you’re in the US and have suffered harassment while playing games, the Games and Online Harassment Hotline offers text based, confidential, emotional support. Text SUPPORT to 23368 to get started. 3-7pm PT.
Anthony is a freelance contributor covering science and video gaming news for IGN. He has over eight years experience of covering breaking developments in multiple scientific fields and absolutely no time for your shenanigans. Follow him on Twitter @BeardConGamer