A Los Altos man accused of stalking and threatening a woman over the course of 12 years pleaded no contest to two felonies last week.
He was released with a tracking device and awaits sentencing later this year.
Matthew Cringle, 29, was arrested in November following a monthslong investigation by the Mountain View Police Department that found he had harassed a former classmate at Los Altos High School over Facebook for a decade. The messages were overtly sexual and threatening in nature and came from several different names on Facebook that were all connected back to Cringle.
Cringle pleaded guilty to stalking with a prior conviction as well as threatening to commit a crime that would result in death or great bodily injury. The victim already had a criminal protective order against Cringle following his arrest on suspicion of stalking in 2013, which was issued in February 2014 and remains in effect until 2024.
Prior to sentencing in December, Cringle is required to wear a GPS tracking device and must not come within 300 yards of the victim or her place of work, according to Deputy District Attorney Kelly Meeker. He is also subject to search and seizure of electronic devices and must provide passwords to his digital accounts.
Cringle is likely to be sentenced to five years of probation, though breaking his no-contact order means he could face a maximum of five years and eight months in jail, Meeker said.
The victim told police that Cringle had been harassing her since high school, and that she had reported eight stalking or harassment incidents as a student. Cringle was expelled and transferred to Mountain View High School in 2006, but continued to contact her. In 2007, he allegedly sprinted to her in downtown Los Altos and put his hands around her neck, and in 2008 reportedly began creating fake Facebook accounts.
Facebook allowed for greater anonymity at the time the accounts were created, making it more difficult for law enforcement to verify they belonged to Cringle, according to police. Using a search warrant, Mountain View's Cyber Crime Unit was able to link Cringle's phone records to the threatening Facebook messages and determined Cringle's IP address had accessed the Facebook accounts used to harass the victim. A records request to Facebook also linked two accounts suspected of belonging to Cringle.
During the investigation, Cringle continued to send threatening messages to the victim, including one in early October, about a month prior to his arrest. His messages repeatedly mentioned her place of work, and the victim feared he might feel emboldened to do something at a "large scale," according to the police investigative report.
Prior to pleading no contest, Cringle was held in custody for six months, and will receive credit for time served, Meeker said.