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The year 2016 is only a couple of hours old when the orgy in Jacob Appelbaum’s apartment in a pre-World War II building in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district really gets going.

Somebody has unfolded the sofa in the living room. Two couples are having sex at the same time in the room. Some guests had already taken synthetic party drug MDMA, which induces a state of euphoria and increases the need for emotional warmth, at another party. A third couple is going at it in the bedroom. Later, a crime allegedly took place in Mr. Appelbaum’s bed or on the fold-out sofa.

A couple of people in the living room are prone on the floor, all of them fully dressed. They had turned up the music so the moaning and groaning of the others doesn’t bother them as much. A young journalist had made herself comfortable on a man’s lap, and he is massaging her back. Sitting across from them is a young American woman. She had gotten to know the others just a couple of days before, but she appears to be uncomfortable at this party. She doesn’t talk much but listens in a friendly manner to what is being said.

The host, Jake Appelbaum, is doing much of the talking at the New Year’s Eve party. Mr. Appelbaum is a 33-year-old American, and he’s a specialist in computer security and the equivalent of a rock star in the worldwide community of hackers. His name is mentioned in the same breath as the elite of digital dissidents such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. For many people, such men are savior-like figures.

Mr. Appelbaum’s party guests number about 20 and are programmers, hackers and activists from all around the world. They are united by one mission: use encryption technologies to fight against what they see as the hated surveillance state. Mr. Appelbaum has been a guru in this Berlin community since he fled the United States in 2013. He felt he was being persecuted by the intelligence agencies.

On this night, he speaks of a trip to Iraq and also his tattoo idea: he wants the images of mathematical formulas tattooed on his body. He shows his guests a sculpture. It’s a prize for investigative journalism that he won two years ago.

He had uncovered for the German magazine Der Spiegel how the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was monitoring the German chancellor’s mobile phone. The journalism prize is named after German journalist Henri Nannen, whose Nazi past incenses Mr. Appelbaum.

He asks those guests gathered around him whether he should smear the sculpture with blood, perhaps the blood of a Jewish activist or perhaps his own blood. Or with menstruation blood, says the female journalist, but she isn’t having her period right now. This is good for other things, Mr. Appelbaum says. A little while later, he disappears with her into the bedroom. Already there in bed is the taciturn young American woman. The three had sex together.

Mr. Appelbaum’s social downfall is sealed this evening and two others he spends with the American. Later, she will make serious allegations against him.

Since then, Mr. Appelbaum has been only one main thing in the public’s eye: a sex offender.

Mr. Appelbaum had been involved in the Tor Project, which provides online anonymity, the most powerful weapon in the fight against secret services and government surveillance. But the digital privacy group announced in early June that Mr. Appelbaum had stepped down. Until then, he had been an important developer for Tor, and the figurehead of software that not only enables what is termed the Darknet. People worldwide put their trust in Tor technology when information must remain secret, when they fear for their lives, or when they aim to circumvent censorship. The Tor network enables protective anonymity to a wide variety of people, from Iranian dissidents to whistleblowers such as former NSA contract employee Mr. Snowden. On the internet, Tor users can communicate incognito.

Shortly after the Tor Project’s announcement in June, a new website popped up: jacobappelbaum.net. The site was set up by people who see themselves as Mr. Appelbaum’s victims. Visitors to the website see photos of Mr. Appelbaum, one of him posing in a colorful suit as if he were the Joker in a Batman film, or other photos of him with microphone in hand giving lectures to fans. "Hey there! We're a collective of people," write the anonymous persons responsible for the website, "who have been harassed, plagiarized, humiliated, and abused — sexually, emotionally, and physically — by Jacob Appelbaum." Above almost every photo of Mr. Appelbaum on the website is an alleged victim’s pseudonym.

Among others, there is an account by a woman who calls herself "Forest." She tells of how she found herself forced to repulse his insistent advances. When she has assumed that everything had been cleared up in a friendly manner between them, she spent the night in Mr. Appelbaum’s apartment and slept next to him in bed.

Forest writes that at apparently, some point she woke up to find that Mr. Appelbaum had unzipped her pants and stuck his finger in her underwear. She wrote that she tried to wake him, but he then rolled over. When the woman angrily confronted Mr. Appelbaum about it later, she claimed he made the terse excuse that he had dreamed that his fiancée was lying next to him.