“Even the Buddha of compassion might have been distressed to be on the receiving end of the diatribes that William Lawrence Cassidy is accused of posting on Twitter,” directed at Tibetan Buddhist reincarnated master Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, reports the New York Times.

Lhamo, a Maryland-based Buddhist leader whose legal name is Alyce Zeoli, was the target of more than 8,000 threatening “tweets,” after Cassidy was scorned by Zeoli/Lhamo’s Buddhist group, writes Times staff writer Somini Sengupta:

Using an ever-changing series of pseudonyms, the authorities say, Cassidy published thousands of Twitter posts about Zeoli. Some were weird horror-movie descriptions of what would befall her; others were more along these lines: “Do the world a favor and go kill yourself. P.S. Have a nice day.”

Those relentless tweets landed Cassidy in jail on charges of online stalking and placed him at the center of an unusual federal case that asks the question: Is posting a public message on Twitter akin to speaking from an old-fashioned soapbox, or can it also be regarded as a means of direct personal communication, like a letter or phone call?

Officials say Cassidy’s Twitter messages caused the Buddhist leader “substantial emotional distress” and made her fear for her life, so much so that she once did not leave home for 18 months and hired armed guards to protect her home. The FBI says Cassidy published more than 8,000 Twitter messages — most of them about Zeoli/Lhamo and her Buddhist circle.

She is an avid Twitter user, with 23,000 followers, writes Sengupta:

According to the FBI and Zeoli’s lawyer, Cassidy also claimed to be a reincarnated Buddhist when he joined Zeoli’s organization, Kunzang Palyul Choling, in 2007.

He signed up using a false name and claimed to have had lung cancer, they said. Zeoli’s organization cared for him and, briefly, even appointed him to its executive team. The relationship soured after they came to doubt his reincarnation credentials and found that his claims of cancer were false. Cassidy left. Then came the relentless tweets, they said.

The FBI cited an example: “Ya like haiku? Here’s one for ya. Long limb, sharp saw, hard drop.”

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