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After Smashing Computer, Johnson Learns Truth

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It started with a bugged e-mail and a mysterious phone call. Then he found out, after smashing his new computer to smithereens, that it was all a farce.

Richmond School Board member Stephen B. Johnson, who resigned as board chairman last week amid an uproar over his "explicit" e-mail posting on Manhunt.net, says he no longer believes his outing in the press was politically motivated.

The emotional turn of events started with a phone call Dec. 2 around 9 p.m.

The caller claimed to be an employee at City Hall who knew how the Manhunt posting became public knowledge, Johnson says. The caller said he'd discovered that Johnson had received an e-mail embedded with a bug from another employee at City Hall. When Johnson opened his e-mail the bug went to work, the caller said, searching his hard drive and reporting its findings to the sender of the e-mail. Johnson says the caller even knew the subject line of the e-mail.

"This person said I had received it on Tuesday, [Nov. 29]," Johnson says. "I went back and looked at my e-mail to see if it was there [it was] and went back to bed."

But not before taking a sledgehammer to his computer, a Hewlett-Packard desktop he'd purchased three months earlier. "I was so furious I tore my computer up," Johnson says.

He found out over the Dec. 10-11 weekend that the person who orchestrated the very public exposure of his Manhunt.net posting has a personal vendetta against him, and was misleading him with the call.

He declines to identify the person. "It's somebody that's had a grudge against me for a long time," Johnson says. "I don't think it's politically motivated at all." — Scott Bass

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