Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.
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April 5–12, 2001

on media

Who’s Laughing Now?

Online fetishist "TerriTickle" faces possible jail time after pleading guilty to cybercrimes.

Three years ago, an infamous tickling fetishist and Internet terrorist who went by the name Terri DiSisto (a.k.a., TerriTickle) launched a cyber attack on a Drexel University student by e-mail bombing Drexel President Constantine Papadakis and others, flooding their computer mail boxes with thousands of e-mails which were forged to implicate the freshman student.

Late last month, after a three-year investigation by the FBI’s Computer Crime Squad, a 39-year-old New York man, David P. D’Amato, acknowledged his role in the Drexel attack, and pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court to two other university computer server assaults. He had been charged with violating the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by intentionally illegally accessing and damaging the computer systems of Suffolk University in Boston and James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. He faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine on each of the two counts, as well as restitution to the victims, for causing the computer systems to crash and depriving thousands of students, faculty and other users of computer access.

DiSisto/D’Amato claimed to be a 23-year-old female Boston College student and solicited video tapes of young guys being tickled via newsgroup and email spam.

"Guys that interest me," DiSisto specified in one post, "are YOUNG (basically, my age…18-23), HOT (….on the thin side…not too ‘big-n-buff’….with absolutely no bodyfat whatsoever), and TICKLISH! No sex or nudity are wanted in my videos. I just want to see guys tied up and mercilessly, relentlessly TICKLED."

"Good videos," in TerriTickle’s estimation, include "exhaustion (which can usually last several days), pseudo-asphyxiation, emotional desperation, occasional muscle strains and pleading and begging…accompanied by truly desperate ticklish laughter…"

But TerriTickle’s sadism was not limited to video. She/he regularly retaliated (using "Internet weapons of mass destruction") against anyone who complained about her activities, or tried to end their association with her, as in the case of the then-18-year-old Drexel student who tried to terminate their online relationship.

Although the FBI’s press release does not mention the Terri DiSisto alias, Samantha Martin of the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed the connection: "In the statement of facts given orally at the time of the plea, it was stated to the court that the defendant used the female persona, Terri DiSisto."

According to Martin, D’Amato is an assistant principal at a high school on Long Island, NY. The school’s website also lists D’Amato as director of guidance. When reached at his office, D’Amato declined to comment on the charges.

"I can’t talk to you about it at all, not a word," D’Amato said. "That’s not something that I’m prepared to discuss. My name is David D’Amato — I’m not in a position to discuss anyone named Terri DiSisto."

The Drexel student, who has since moved to the Boston area, expressed relief that his tormenter has finally been brought to justice. Ironically, the student recalled that while he was a high school senior in 1996, DiSisto/D’Amato had threatened to send the then 17-year-old student’s videos to his high school assistant principal, in this e-mail message: "I will be returning all of your videos to you tomorrow… courtesy of your AP at [his] High School…I want nothing more to do with you ever again…. You are unreachable…a total shit…a self-centered, ego-maniacal little FAG…a girly boy without a set of balls…Life is gonna fucking CRUCIFY you…"

The student plans to attend D’Amato’s July sentencing and may apply for restitution.

"It’s finally over," he said. "Not only is the mystery of who this person was solved, but also the specter of further harassment by this person is over."

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