A Covina man who carried out a “cruel and sadistic” online harassment campaign against two teenage girls who rejected his sexual advances was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in federal prison with the recommendation that he serve the time in a mental health facility.
Carl Bennington, 34, pleaded guilty in December to two federal cyberstalking counts.
During the sentencing hearing conducted via Zoom, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said Bennington suffers from “serious mental illness” and requires treatment. However, his mental health problems do not “excuse the harm he inflicted on the victims,” she added.
Gee also sentenced Bennington to three years of supervised release after his release from custody.
From at least February 2016 through March 2020, Bennington used various social media accounts to harass the victims, sending hundreds of messages threatening to commit acts of physical and sexual violence against them if they did not submit to his advances.
Neither teen ever met Bennington in person, according to federal prosecutors in Los Angeles.
When one of the girls demanded that Bennington stop harassing her, Bennington replied that he was going to kill her and her family, according to court documents.
Gee said Bennington’s “very cruel and sadistic” online communications with the victims included sending pictures of men assaulting women and holding knives to their throats.
The victims declined to make statements during the hearing.
Bennington, who has been in federal custody since his arrest last year, apologized to the victims and his family, saying he was “experiencing some mental issues (that) just got worse over time.”
Defense attorney Lisa LaBarre told the court that her client experienced the gradual onset of schizophrenia before he was diagnosed with the mental disorder, “and that led to the unfortunate acts and statements documented here.”
Bennington was an online promoter of the “involuntary celibate” subculture, based around the inability to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one, a state that adherents describe as “inceldom” or “incelibacy,” federal prosecutors said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office stated that in addition to the threatening and harassing messages he sent to young women and girls, Bennington frequently made statements on internet groups promoting incel ideology.
The ideology promotes the view that women oppress men and have too much freedom to choose their own sexual partners. The belief ranges in tone from sad and self-loathing to advocating the “absolute hatred” of women, according to court papers.