Melbourne man Timothy Ruge, who could have faced jail time after he blackmailed a Grindr user by threatening to out the victim to the woman he was engaged to marry, has instead been sentenced to community service.
Ruge was charged in May 2018 after demanding that the victim, whose identity is protected by a suppression order, buy his silence with $1300.
The victim was talking to Ruge on Grindr when he received a photo of his fiancée alongside the message “She’s pretty you cheating bastard.” Ruge threatened to send screenshots of their chat history on the dating app to the man’s fiancée if he did not pay for the messages to be deleted.
The victim met Ruge at Southern Cross Station and paid $200. However, Ruge went on to message him again, threatening to “take your girl, make her mine” if he didn’t pay a further $300. At this point, the man went to the police.
Ruge told police in interviews that he had blackmailed the man because he was on a “crusade or something” to lower the divorce rate after the end of his own long-term relationship in 2015 had damaged his mental health. He also said that he was homeless and using ice at the time of the incident.
“He tries to paint himself as some type of moral guardian where he is blackmailing someone,’’ Judge Lisa Hannan said. She said Ruge had a “perceived moral high ground,” indulged in victim blaming and showed a lack of remorse in interviews with police.
The judge rejected claims by Ruge’s lawyer that he was trying to do the right thing by exposing men cheating on their partners through Grindr. “In my view it’s clear that your motivation was money and you saw a soft target, that is, a man who wished to keep his sexual preferences and activities confidential,” she said.
“You are properly described as at times exhibiting aggressive, at times threatening, and at other times taunting behaviour,” Hannan told Ruge.
She chose to spare Ruge a jail sentence, acknowledging that time in prison would put his mental and physical health at risk. However, she told him “You were very close to finding yourself in jail today. You breach this order and it’s like holding your hand up and saying ‘send me to jail.'”
Ruge will also undergo drug and mental health treatment as part of his sentence.
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