Ottawa restaurateur Marisol Simoes guilty of libel: Cyberbullying also affects adults

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News Writer
Daily Brew

Next week is National Bullying Awareness Week.

It's unlikely kickoff: the likely jail sentence of a restaurant owner who dedicated two years of her life to humiliating and defaming an unsatisfied customer.

In an Ottawa courtroom last month, restaurant owner Marisol Simoes was found guilty of two counts of libel.

Today, the Crown argued that the 41-year-old woman should spend three months in jail. Simoes' lawyer asked for probation or house arrest, citing public humiliation as punishment enough. She'll be sentenced on November 16.

In 2009, diner Elayna Katz posted two negative reviews about Simoes' Mambo Nuevo Latino on after a waiter asked her to pay for a dish she'd returned, her order was inaccurate and the service was left wanting.

Simoes read the review and, by all appearances, snapped.

Read her threatening letter to here.

She launched a campaign against Katz, determined to humiliate her "by depicting her as a lonely, unstable, sexually insatiable transsexual," the Toronto Star reports.

[ Related: Justice ministers form working group to look at consequences for cyberbullying ]

Ottawa police charged her under Canada's criminal defamation laws.

Cyberbullying isn't just for kids.

Katz' review revealed her full name, job information and her work phone number: great ammunition for a revenge-seeking restaurant owner. Soon Simoes was leaving Katz messages calling her "crazy" and insisting she should be locked up in a local mental health centre.

A year later, Simoes repeatedly sent emails, impersonating Katz, to Katz's employers about her being transgendered and being interested in threesomes and group sex and calling herself  "a tiger in the bedroom." Taking her revenge a step further, she set up a lewd dating profile for Katz on an adult website in the "men seeking men" section.

Police traced the IP address that created the profile to Simoes' computer, the Ottawa Citizen reported.

"Ms. Katz enjoys freedom of speech as do all people in this country," Judge Diane Lahaie said, adding what Simoes did was "not just inappropriate but criminal."

"I hope this is used as an example to people so that they recognize how severe the Internet can be," Katz said after Simoes was found guilty. "It can be used as a weapon."

Charges under Canada's criminal defamation laws are currently rare, but with the rise of cyberbullying, Simoes' story might be setting a precedent.

[ Related: Ottawa man hopes to create cyberbullying firewall ]

Since 2003, there have been 41 suicides involving cyberbulling in Canada, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, CBC News reports.

Canada's justice and public safety ministers are now working together to tackle cyberbullying in this country.

"We've agreed to a working group, an ad hoc working group, that will contemplate whether or not there are gaps in the Criminal Code that would allow us to look at some further consequences," Shirley Bond, British Columbia's justice minister and attorney general told the Canadian Press.

"Some consequences exist under the current code, but our concern is are there are gaps, can we look at this differently, are there revisions?"