Case of fake online relationship argued before state Supreme Court

SPRINGFIELD — The case of a Batavia woman who created more than 20 fake online personalities to pursue and eventually end an Internet relationship with another woman living across the country made its way to the Illinois Supreme Court for oral arguments today.

“Here, we have a slow, dripping hoax,” attorney Daliah Saper told the justices during today's hearing.

Saper represents Paula Bonhomme, a California woman who fell in love with — and tried to meet with — a firefighter she met online named Jesse Jubilee James.

That firefighter, though, was a creation of Janna St. James of Batavia, who met Bonhomme on a message board for the HBO show “Deadwood.” Over 18 months, St. James created a number of other online characters to buttress the firefighter's story, before eventually killing him off by having him “die” of liver cancer.

Bonhomme sued, claiming emotional distress caused by St. James, and the case was argued before the state's high court today.

St. James' attorney told the justices that the fraud Bonhomme was claiming is only legally acknowledged in business relationships, not personal ones. A ruling that would expand similar fraud claims into personal relationships could raise a lot of questions, she argued.

“There is no aspect of business in the relationship,” argued Phyllis Perko, an attorney based in West Dundee. “This is very simply a personal setting.”

But Bonhomme's attorney argued that fraud in personal relationships should be weighed on a case-by-case basis. In her case, Bonhomme spent as much as $10,000 in gifts and other expenses on the relationship, Saper said.

“In this case, we want to prevent, simply, cons,” Saper said.

The case originates in Kane County, where St. James lives. A decision from the Supreme Court isn't scheduled and isn't likely to come for months.

Supreme Court to hear Batavia online scam case

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