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Marianne Maddalena is detailing the “pain and suffering” she suffered when her ex-boyfriend hacked into her office computer and installed a GPS tracking system on her car.
Maddalena is a longtime partner of horrormeister Wes Craven and has been a producer on such films as the Scream series, Dracula 2000 and The Hills Have Eyes.
But according to a lawsuit filed Friday in California federal court, the nightmare of being spied upon by someone close is the ultimate terror.
As the complaint puts it, “When our privacy is taken, when our character is sullied by someone acting to be ourselves and when our lives are stolen from us through an internet based hijacking, the core of our very existence is stabbed at its epicenter, and the recovery can take much longer than any serious physical injury.”
The target of the complaint is Derrick John Toole, who according to court records was convicted of felonies last year. He was a contractor in the construction business and, according to Maddalena’s lawsuit, had “many high-profile clients.”
Maddalena says she met Toole in late 2007, and they dated on and off for years. During this time, she says, she “perceived herself to be in a loving, safe and enjoyable relationship” that included romantic gestures, cards, trips and other affectionate moments.
But Maddalena says that in 2009, Toole began using spyware to intercept her e-mails, texts and other electronic communications. That year, she was working on Last House on the Left, a horror film that she co-produced with Craven.
Toole is alleged to have broken into her production offices on Ventura Boulevard, logged onto her work computers and received intercepted communications and reports of all of her keystrokes, passwords typed, messages and more. This activity is said to have given him access to things like her financial records and phone bills. With that information, Toole is described as figuring out whom she interacted with, and by conducting public records searches and allegedly installing a tracking device on her car, he basically knew her every move.
“In or around 2010, Ms. Maddalena thought she was losing her mind as family, friends and co-workers seemed to back off and drop out of her life,” says the lawsuit.
Maddalena began seeing a therapist. Says the complaint: “The damages to Plaintiff include not only great emotional distress and paranoid feelings born out of mistrust, but also the sense that Plaintiff is being watched — always being watched.”
What she didn’t know, adds the lawsuit, was that her ex-boyfriend was using the information to impersonate her, sending e-mails with damaging messages to people she knew.
That appears to be how Toole was caught.
In January 2011, Maddalena says, she received a reply to an e-mail that she knew that she hadn’t sent. So she hired a computer company to investigate. The spyware was found. Later, the FBI got involved and found more surreptitious software.
Maddalena says she confronted Toole and that he broke down and admitted some of what he had done. The FBI then conducted a search of Toole’s home and “found a plastic tub” filled with all sorts of Maddalena’s personal data. According to the complaint, “It appeared to be a massive spying and espionage operation, but this was not a movie or a government sanctioned program, but rather the malicious plot and plan of a man who had been amputating Plaintiff’s personal and work life piece by piece over a period of years using spyware and technology.”
The plaintiff, represented by attorney Gerard Fox, is suing for violations of her electronic privacy, computer fraud, wiretapping, public disclosure of private facts, intrusion into solitude, infliction of emotional distress, trespass, conversion, defamation, assault, battery and more. She says she remains “highly paranoid about who might be intercepting her electronic communications” and has incurred substantial medical and counseling costs to deal with the emotional distress.
Maddalena also appears to be taking a break from the horror genre by executive producing Jerusalem, I Love You, which covers 10 love stories in the holy city.
Toole pled guilty in November to illegal wiretapping and computer access and fraud. He is now on probation, reports the lawsuit. He could not be reached for comment.
Maddalena’s lawsuit asks for compensation and the recovery of punitive damages but also makes the point that “this case is not just another filing in the hallows of the court’s file room where dollars are only at play, but rather a clarion call to Plaintiff’s peers in society to take note of these heinous acts, and administer the justice that still remains unfulfilled.”
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