A 48-year-old US man was found guilty Tuesday of encouraging the suicides of a young Canadian woman and a Briton in Internet chat rooms, court documents showed.
William Melchert-Dinkel was found guilty on two counts of violating Minnesota's assisted suicide law, according to the verdict from state judge Thomas Neuville. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
He was charged specifically for his roles in the suicides of Mark Drybrough, 32, who hanged himself in Coventry, England, in 2005, and Nadia Kajouji, an 18-year-old who threw herself off a bridge in Ottawa in 2008.
Melchert-Dinkel admitted to police he posed as a female nurse on Internet discussion groups about suicide and depression.
Prosecutors said Melchert-Dinkel estimated he "most likely encouraged dozens of persons to commit suicide and characterized it as the thrill of the chase."
The complaint said he advised people on how to hang themselves and "what to expect they could experience from it."
The man claimed in his defense that he was exercising his right to free speech. But the judge wrote that "suicide is not a fundamental liberty interest" protected by the constitution and added that preventing suicides is "rationally related to the state's interest."
The judge rejected arguments that the state's assisted suicide law was unconstitutional.
Melchert-Dinkel waived his right to a jury trial after his arrest in 2010. Court documents showed that he told police he saw himself as an "advocate" for those who wanted to end their lives and acted only in an "advisory" role."
He also told people who wanted to commit suicide that he would watch the act by webcam, according to the judge's order.
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