A BULLY who repeatedly tormented a ‘vulnerable’ autistic friend, including shooting him with a BB gun, has been jailed.
Steven Anderson had denied blackmailing his victim by making threatening demands to him for money.
But Anderson, 25, of Cornwallis Road, Rugby, pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to an alternative offence of harassment, and was jailed for eight months.
Prosecutor Nicholas Berry said Anderson’s 25-year-old victim, who suffers from autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, is a shy loner with low self-confidence who struggles to make friends and is easily-led.
He and Anderson had first met when they were both at college, and got back in touch in early 2017.
They began making videos of them carrying out various ‘challenges’ against one-another and posting them on YouTube to try to make some money.
But on one occasion the victim told Anderson that he had a large amount of money in his bank account.
Mr Berry said Anderson got around £300 by threatening and pressurising the victim between February and April.
It began with a request for £50 for a tattoo, backed up with texts, one of which read: “Will you give me the 50? Do you want to do it the easy way or the hard way? Your choice.”
Mr Berry added Anderson was regularly disgruntled with the victim for being late in meeting up to make the videos.
“The defendant would punch him to the arm, and on one occasion kicked him to the testicles in front of other people.
“On the 15th of April he took his glasses and snapped them, saying ‘That’s for being late. Don’t be late again.’
On another occasion, Anderson shot him about ten times with a BB gun, having instructed another man to record it – and the video was posted online.
Eventually the tormented young man told his manager at work what had been going on, saying he was thinking of killing himself, and she called the police.
When he was arrested, Anderson claimed he had only had £50 on one occasion, and that the text messages had been sent ‘in good humour.’
He denied deliberately shooting him, claiming he had been aiming at a ball he was bouncing at the time, but did accept punishing him for being late.
Michael Anning, defending, said Anderson had not been aware the other young man had any particular disability, and he had been ‘an enthusiastic participant’ in the making of prank videos.
“But of course matters went beyond that. He accepts that what he did was unpleasant and amounts to bullying and involved acts of violence, but not causing any serious injury.”
But since then there have been more positive features in his life, including moving back in with his parents, and Mr Anning suggested he would be ‘suitable for a suspended sentence.’
But jailing Anderson, Judge Barry Berlin told him: “You saw that his vulnerability could be exploited by you when he told you he had cash in the bank.
“You then became involved in a campaign of harassment against him, in my view, with the specific aim of getting money.
“This was not a one-off action but a concerted and spiteful act of bullying over a period of two months.
“One can understand why he said he felt like killing himself because of your behaviour. It was persistent action over a long period. This is a nasty offence of spiteful bullying.”