Friday, April 08, 2005

Spammer in the can

SFGate reports A man convicted in the nation's first felony case against illegal spamming was sentenced to nine years in prison Friday for bombarding Internet users with millions of junk e-mails.

However, Loudoun County Circuit Judge Thomas Horne delayed the start of Jeremy Jaynes' prison term while the case is appealed, saying the law is new and raises constitutional questions.

Jaynes, 30, who was considered among the top 10 spammers in the world at the time of his arrest, used the Internet to peddle pornography and sham products and services such as a "FedEx refund processor," prosecutors said. Thousands of people fell for his e-mails, and prosecutors said Jaynes' operation grossed up to $750,000 per month.

Jaynes was convicted in November for using false Internet addresses and aliases to send mass e-mail ads through an AOL server in Loudoun County, where America Online is based. Under Virginia law, sending unsolicited bulk e-mail itself is not a crime unless the sender masks his identity.

While prosecutors presented evidence of just 53,000 illegal e-mails, authorities believe Jaynes was responsible for spewing out 10 million e-mails a day. Prosecutors said Jaynes made millions of dollars from the illegal venture.

James Joyner blogged One suspects that the constitutional arguments here will fail. The obvious claims are under the 1st and 8th Amendments (and, by extension, the 14th). Jaynes could argue that his free speech rights are being violated here.

The courts have been very stingy in protecting commercial speech, especially those that impose externalities on others. Indeed, until fairly recently, commercial speech was deemed to be uncovered by the 1st Amendment, period.

I'm less familiar with 8th Amendment jurisprudence but would think it would be hard to convince a judge that a nine year sentence for one of the most prolific spammers constitutes "excessive" punishment. The courts have applied a proportionality test in such cases. Given the number of offenses here, nine years seems quite reasonable.

Patti blogged Bad day to be a spammer! But a good day for the rest of us!

Ken Masugi blogged The case does raise some federalism issues, so the conviction might well be overturned on appeal. See these thoughts on the internet tax. In any event, do not expect an immediate drop in spam.

DavidNYC @DailyKos blogged Memo to Viagra peddlers, Russian bride hawkers, home business entrepreneurs and "enlargement" specialists : You. Are. Next.

ACM blogged I'm sure I'm not alone in looking forward to watching this person go away, nor in hoping that this will strike some fear into the others who make our electronic lives so much less enjoyable...

I hope we see many more of these convictions in the future. I think this is something all of us can agree with.

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