Gillespie, 53, claims that Marlowe and Bob Charpentier, a 52-year-old Oregon resident, insulted him and harassed him in the AOL chatroom called "Romance — Older Men" to the point where it inflicted "severe emotional distress and physical injury that is of a nature no reasonable man could be expected to endure it."
The case is not simply "someone conversing in a chatroom" but also involves "harassing someone in Ohio," which gives Ohio courts jurisdiction, according to Gillespie's lawyers.
"Those norms require the aggressor to engage in behavior that is highly offensive to a reasonable person," he said. "Taking a picture of somebody's house and putting it up on the Web is not that."
Hoofnagle said Gillespie's emotional distress claim will also be tough to prove.
"We live in a rough society, as opposed to Europe, where offending someone or directly cursing or attacking their dignity can give you a cause of action," he said.
Charpentier, who has filed a response seeking to reserve the right to file a $125,000 countersuit against Gillespie, said Gillespie threatened to kill him and "made sick and disgusting remarks about the passing of my grandmother."
"He is an AOL computer thug, that is all he is," Charpentier said.
Marlowe characterized the dispute as a petty power struggle. He said Gillespie was the de facto leader of the "Romance — Older Men" chatroom, and didn't like it when he and Charpentier challenged his authority.
But Marlowe said he never took the chatroom antics personally — until he was served with a lawsuit.
"I don't know how four years of bantering back and forth led to this insane nonsense," he said. "It's just the Internet, for God's sake. It's nothing important."