No, it turns out that marrying a 13-year-old in RuneScape doesn’t make it legal to have marital relations with her.
Relationships that start in MMOs and carry over into the real world aren’t all that uncommon these days; that said, it’s a bit more uncommon when they result in felony charges. 54-year-old John W. Phillips of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, is probably regretting ever signing up for RuneScape, as he’s now being charged with a total of eleven felonies, including accosting a child for immoral purposes, sexual assault, using a computer to communicate with another person to commit a crime, and child sexually abusive activity.
Phillips, whose “only source of income comes from selling Magic: The Gathering game cards, ” is currently in jail on charges that he traveled to Detroit three different times last year to have sex with a 13-year-old girl whom he met and wed in the MMO. According to Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, Phillips and the girl met in-game in 2010. The two then built a relationship via online chat.
Phillips apparently tried (unsuccessfully) to mail her a cell phone, so he came to Detroit to deliver the phone in person last February. The two had sex in a motel, though charges state that Phillips also had sex with her in his van and at her home. At some point, the two wed in RuneScape.
“They got married in the game,” said sheriff’s corporal Ray Johnson. “Maybe he thought that was legitimate in real life. It’s not.”
Authorities were alerted about the situation when the girl’s mother (who “[works] two or three jobs and wasn’t home for extended periods of time”) found her daughter text-messaging on the phone Phillips had given her – highly suspicious since the girl wasn’t supposed to have a phone.
Phillips led the authorities on a chase, eluding capture by visiting his father in New York and drastically altering his appearance. When he was arrested, he fought extradition from New York to Michigan without success; he was arraigned on January 13 and pretrial hearings starts this Thursday.
I’ve reported on this kind of situation often enough over the past few months that I shouldn’t have to mention my personal feelings on the matter or just what a scumbag Phillips I believe this man to be. From the sound of the charges, he’ll hopefully be going to be in jail for quite some time.