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Subject: [hangout] One down - a million more to go
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Junk e-mailer sentence in first felony spam case
Raleigh News & Observer
Apr. 8, 2005 07:05 PM
LEESBURG, Va. -- A Virginia judge sentenced a Raleigh, N.C., man Friday
to nine years in prison for clogging the world's computers with junk
But he postponed Jeremy Jaynes' incarceration until appeals are
exhausted and challenges to the young state law used to convict him are
resolved. Jaynes, 30, could remain free for years.
Even so, the decision to enact the maximum punishment proposed by a jury
in the nation's first felony prosecution of a spammer is likely to
embolden prosecutors nationwide. advertisement
It shows how important electronic communication has become and society's
intolerance for the unwanted messages that disrupt it.
"The jury in large measure represents community sentiment," Loudoun
County Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne said. The sentence is "a
deterrent to stop other people who might send unsolicited mail in this
Virginia officials shut down one of the world's most prolific spam
operations by prosecuting Jaynes. But his conviction in November has not
scared others into submission.
Junk e-mail still thrives like uncontrolled weeds, choking computer
networks and robbing recipients of time and money. In December 2003, the
month Jaynes was arrested, spam accounted for two-thirds of all e-mail,
according to estimates by CipherTrust, a message security company. This
January, it was 82 percent.
What's more, spam has become a more potent security threat. The messages
once known for unwanted get-rich-quick pitches or bedroom performance
products are just as likely now to carry viruses that can disable
computers. Spammers send e-mail disguised as correspondence from
companies to get personal data.
They are progressing to other mediums, too. Spam is infecting instant
messaging and text communication on mobile devices.
"It's definitely gotten more dangerous," said Sara Radicati, chief
executive of the Radicati Group, a research firm in Palo Alto, Calif.
Law enforcement and companies across the country are pursuing spammers
with fresh vigor, aided by new state and federal legislation to stamp
out billions of unwanted e-mail messages.
This week, Florida sued two residents, accusing them of sending junk
e-mail. Microsoft last month filed 117 civil lawsuits to thwart phishing
-- the practice of tricking e-mail recipients into divulging
Critics say the legal efforts are pointless. Better technology, they
say, is the solution because it attacks the economics that make spam
lucrative. If spammers can't get messages to mailboxes, the business
loses its appeal.
Litigation and legislation are "just longer-term investments," said Mike
Rothman, CipherTrust's vice president of marketing. "You have a few
hangings in the town square and guys start to think, 'Maybe this isn't
the easy money we thought it was.' "
Jaynes was prosecuted not for pumping out e-mail in bulk, but for
falsifying information used to route the messages. He was caught under a
tough Virginia law that took effect in 2003 and was crafted with the
help of industry giants including America Online. As much as half the
world's Internet traffic passes through computer servers in the state,
giving Virginia jurisdiction.
The case against Jaynes eventually ensnared his sister, Jessica DeGroot
of Apex, N.C., whose conviction was later overturned, and a second man,
Richard Rutkowski of Cary, N.C., who was acquitted.
Prosecutors said Jaynes was the mastermind and made as much as $750,000
a month sending e-mails for products that included a Web history eraser.
The spoils afforded him two homes in Raleigh, including a
Jaynes' lawyers on Friday disputed his image as a modern snake-oil
salesman. They portrayed him as a compassionate businessman who built
homes for the poor and gave to charities.
They presented letters attesting to his character, including one from
former North Carolina Attorney General Rufus Edmisten. And they said
that Jaynes lacked the wealth described by the prosecution. His bank
accounts are depleting, and he owes $1.6 million in federal taxes
because of a tax shelter that has been deemed improper, said Jaynes'
lawyer, David Oblon.
"I would like to let the court know that I didn't intend to cause harm
to anybody," Jaynes said before sentencing, joined in court by his wife,
sister, mother and other relatives. "I will never be involved in the
e-mail marketing business again."
Oblon argued that Jaynes should serve no time. But Horne said the
offense warranted confinement. He agreed to postpone incarceration
because the law used to convict Jaynes remains shaky. A number of issues
must be considered by appellate courts, a process that defense attorneys
said could take four years. The sentence could be revisited after
For now, Jaynes must comply with the terms of the $1 million bond posted
after his conviction. He must stay in the country club home he rents in
Loudoun County, Va., under electronic surveillance unless his lawyers
can win court approval for him to return to Raleigh.
"We're satisfied," said Lisa Hicks-Thomas, an assistant Virginia
attorney general whose office has indicted two others under the spam
law. "We'll be back here in a few months with some other people."
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