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The Courts Government Spam News

Defending Harsh Sentences for Spammers 633

Posted by timothy
from the doesn't-bother-me-too-much dept.
BMcWilliams writes "Russell McGuire, one of the government lawyers who prosecuted spammer Jeremy Jaynes, has published an article justifying the tough sentence recommended by a Virginia jury. He writes, 'the defense attorney argued that greed cuts both ways and the victims got what they deserved because they were trying to get rich quick. Needless to say, this did not go over well with the jury.' Still, the eye-popping 9-year sentence has even some ardent anti-spammers wondering whether 'proportionality is becoming a completely forgotten concept.'"
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Defending Harsh Sentences for Spammers

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  • first post? (Score:5, Funny)

    by zzmejce (756372) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:56AM (#10775830) Homepage
    And what is the defense attorney e-mail address?
  • Proprotionality (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sqlrob (173498) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:57AM (#10775834)
    So, how much did it work out *per spam*? A couple of seconds, if that? If "it takes a second" to hit delete, then that's a reasonable sentence for each spam.

    • Re:Proprotionality (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cbogart (154596) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:06AM (#10775923)
      Seems like the courts could come up with some estimate of costs imposed by spamming -- how many hours do how many people spend "hitting delete" or installing and maintaining spam filters; what's the cost of the bandwidth needed to carry it nationwide. Then figure out what proportion of that this spammer was responsible for, and you have an estimate of how much value he stole from people.
      • Re:Proprotionality (Score:4, Insightful)

        by hackstraw (262471) * on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @12:31PM (#10777586)
        Seems like the courts could come up with some estimate of costs imposed by spamming -- how many hours do how many people spend "hitting delete" or installing and maintaining spam filters; what's the cost of the bandwidth needed to carry it nationwide. Then figure out what proportion of that this spammer was responsible for, and you have an estimate of how much value he stole from people.

        I'm sorry, but this idea make as much sense as the arbitrary method of assigning sentences that we have now.

        1st, I'm dissapointed in the /. crowd for thinking that this guy was convicted of "spamming". He wasn't. Its basically a specific form of fraud which is clearly explained in the bolded 1st paragraph of the article.

        Sentences for crime and many of the "crimes" themselves are arbitrary. I don't want to get philosophical here, but there simply really isn't a right or a wrong, its only popular opinion (thanks 12 Monkeys :).

        I know of someone that was found guilty of stealing abour $40,000 from her employer. It was a cut and dry case, because she was responsible for collecting payments at a doctor's office, and she just told the people to leave the "Payable to" field blank, and she would stamp it, but instead she just put her name on it. A pretty easy paper trail for the crime. Anyway, she got 6 months in jail and has to do pay $50 a month in restitution. To me that is not a punishment at all, and if I were in a similar situation, I would take 6 months in jail and a $50 payment for a $40,000 interest free loan. Maybe, but what I'm getting at is the punishment would not be a deterant for doing this, now my silly sense of morals would probably prevail.

        Look at the drug laws and punishments. In 10 states in our country, possession of marijuana in personal quanities is not a crime at all, and only has a fine associated with it like speeding. In the other 40 states, its a misdimeaner from about 30 days to 1 year of jail time.

        Look at the differences between different drugs. Especially powder vs rock (crack) cocaine. That makes no sense whatsoever (except its pretty effective in controlling poor uneducated inner city people).

        Also, the government is not very good at estimating losses. The estimates of losses from drug use (between 50 and 100 billion a year, depending on which week the question is asked) were based on calling a few people in North Carolina and asking them: 1) do you smoke pot? 2) how much money do you make? Being that a majority of the people that smoke pot are under 30, including many students, one can easily see that these people are going to be at the bottom of most pay scales.
      • Re:Proprotionality (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ironsides (739422) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @12:52PM (#10777808) Homepage Journal
        You're forgetting that these guys were also using the spam to sell products that would not do what they claimed they would do. As I undrstand it, they were spamming people to scam them out of money. The nine years isn't just for the spamming, but for selling, as the prosecutor liked to put it, "snake oil".
    • Re:Proprotionality (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So what's that.. around 11 days/one million spam messages sent... gives 31 million spams == one year in jail. 31*9 ~= 280 million spams.

      • Re:Proprotionality (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sqlrob (173498)
        And 280 Million is what, a year's worth of spam by the average spammer, if it's that low?

        If they were doing this more than a year, they got off light.

      • In that case, I propose the only suitable punishment -
        death by 280 million paper cuts.

        I've got an almost new ream of 120g/sm, and I'm prepared to share it.

        FP.
    • Re:Proprotionality (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Consider for a moment the financial costs imposed on the spam victims and the infrastructure providers the spam traversed on its way to those "greedy" spam recipients. It's not uncommon for criminals to go to prison for extended periods for stealing cars, defrauding banks, shoplifting, etc. Given that this spammer probably sopped up millions of dollars worth of resources, I don't find the sentence very stiff at all. The only difference between Jaynes and a bank robber is that he didn't use a gun in his c
    • Re:Proprotionality (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zocalo (252965)
      Exactly my view! I'm a big fan of punishments for a crime being proportional to ammount the damage inflicted; let the punishment fit the crime, but not in a strict interpretation of an "eye for an eye". No one would bat an eye if someone got ten years for stealing a painting valued at $10m, so why should there be such a fuss when a spammer gets the same kind of sentence? If we assume the spammer sent a billion spams (a conservative estimate), that's a total cost of just $0.01 per spam. That's $0.01 to c
    • AOL alone deletes approximately 2 billion spam messages each day (reference here [pcworld.com]), and has won a lawsuit [post-gazette.com] against a company that single-handedly sent a billion. Nine years is approximately 284 million seconds, so I suspect we are talking small fractions of a second per spam message.
    • Re:Proprotionality (Score:4, Informative)

      by hackstraw (262471) * on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @11:45AM (#10777039)
      So, how much did it work out *per spam*? A couple of seconds, if that? If "it takes a second" to hit delete, then that's a reasonable sentence for each spam.

      I hate to bust everybody's bubble, but this spammer really didn't get sentenced for spam, but rather for fraud. From TFA:

      During my opening statement, I explained to the jury that sending spam by itself is not a crime, but when you masquerade your identity, you violate Virginia's law that took effect in July 2003. Spammers run afoul of the law when they use another's IP or domain address without authority or create a fictitious IP or domain address.

      Also, what this guy was "selling" was some UPS work-from-home tracking bs where you were supposedly getting paid a good amount of money for sitting at home. This guy made some 8 or 9 million dollars from scamming people with this crap.

      Anyway, my point is that he was not really convicted for spamming, but rather for being a greedy deceptive assmunch, and I think his sentence fits the crime.
    • Quick calcs: If you presume that he sends 10,000,000 spams/day at an average cost to the user of 0.1 seconds (since most now get caught in filters), and presume that he did this for about a year.
      That comes to about 11 person-years.

      Then you figure in how much money he made from his spamming scams... According to the courts, he was taking in $400K-$700K/month. Much of that was essentially money for SCAMS. Even if you presume $10% net profit, that's still about $50K/month. or 1/2Million/year. If you

  • Zoo mentality (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:59AM (#10775859)
    It doesn't need to be said that you can get off with a lighter sentence for killing someone. This just goes to show that we're too quick to lock people in cages these days. Why not have them give back to the community or something constructive?
    • Because he'll do it again. As Steve said, fines aren't going to do the trick.
      • Re:Zoo mentality (Score:4, Insightful)

        by pe1rxq (141710) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:45AM (#10776385) Homepage Journal
        A sentence should for rehabilitation, not revenge.
        In 9 years (especially in a US prisson) they will not be rehabilitated, they will be angry, pissed off, without a future. They won't fit into society and be good citicens, much more likely they will have been pushed over the edge mentally and commit far worse crimes.
        • > In 9 years (especially in a US prisson) they will not be rehabilitated, they will be angry, pissed off, without a future. They won't fit into society and be good citicens, much more likely they will have been pushed over the edge mentally and commit far worse crimes.

          So we're in agreement. Kill them.

          (I'm in a gentle mood today, and suggest suffocation by weighing down their rib cages with pallets of a certain trademarked potted meat product. My motivation isn't revenge, it's the pay-per-view reven

        • Re:Zoo mentality (Score:5, Insightful)

          by CountBrass (590228) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @11:13AM (#10776699)

          I call bullshit.

          Whilst I agree 9 years for a first offence of spamming (assuming no fraud/attempted fraud) is over the top.

          However, a sentence serves 4 purposes: First and foremost it's about punishment. Second it's about convincing the victims and society they've been punished: so they don't feel the need to take the law into their own hands, and so that they can move on. Thirdly it's about proecting society: both the individuals and the collective group. And fourth, by a big margin, it's about rehabilitation.

          • Re:Zoo mentality (Score:4, Insightful)

            by canajin56 (660655) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @11:43AM (#10777018)

            Here here! I actually talked to somebody who said that all punishment is wrong. I asked "So if somebody murdered your entire family, you wouldn't even want them locked up?" "No, I would want to help them, because they obviously are not well." "But what about the other people he could kill. Putting him in jail would prevent that" "So we should sacrifice his freedom for the supposed safety of some hypothetical person? That's not justice"

            As for your first comment, there was fraud involved. Above and beyond the forged headers, they were selling $39.95 "FedEx Refund Processors". "Make $75 an hour working from home" and all that. That is why his lawyer made the comment about how it was the victims fault for being greedy.

          • Re:Zoo mentality (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Xenographic (557057)
            Why is rehab so unimportant?

            Do we *want* them comitting more crimes when their sentences end?

            When I think of the importance of rehab, I don't think "oh, those poor little criminals, won't someone help them," I think "oh crap, what are we going to do with them when they get out?"
        • Deterence (Score:3, Insightful)

          by coyote-san (38515)
          Bullshit. Prison as "rehabilitation" is a relatively recent concept and still unproven. For that matter prison itself is a relatively recent concept - through most of human history somebody who commited a serious crime was either executed or enslaved. There was no third choice.

          Historically, punishment has been done for two reasons simultaneously. The first is to end the cycle of revenge - if you kill my brother I'll kill you and your cousin will kill me and .... The state comes in and says it, alone,
          • Re:Deterence (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Ironsides (739422)
            through most of human history somebody who commited a serious crime was either executed or enslaved. There was no third choice.

            Actually, the ancient greeks had fines as a punishment. One of Socrates possible punishments that was mentioned in the plays was a fine. Assuming that he plead guilty I think. So there is a third, Fining.
    • Why not have them give back to the community or something constructive?

      That's a great idea. He can spend his prison time (the portion not reserved for butt-rape) being a manual spam filter for someone. 12 hours a day forced to read through spam after spam and sort them into categories. The data can then be sent to spam filtering companies for... I don't know, fun, I guess. The helping-society part of this is a little flimsy. But the fun part is random ones are picked and checked for accuracy by a gua
      • Re:Zoo mentality (Score:5, Insightful)

        by VistaBoy (570995) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:39AM (#10776316)
        I really hate the recent common mentality that it's tolerable for convicts to be "butt-raped" in prison as a punishment. Especially when our President constantly mentions that our military freed Iraq from "rape rooms." Why are people tolerating rape as a punishment for crimes? Why is the public not only allowing, but ENCOURAGING a loophole around the Eighth Amendment?
        • Raping in prison (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Firethorn (177587)
          I have to agree with this. You can successfully argue that a convict is better off in Abu Graib than some american prisons. From what I've heard, it seems that the higher ups, not having any experience running a prison, used reservists who were civilian guards. I noted that the highest ranking individual charged was one. I think it indicates a major problem with our civilian prison system.

          Consider-You have problems in american prisons with:
          1. Rape
          2. Murder
          3. Beatings/assaults
          4. Drugs

          One such prob [cnnsf.com]
        • Re:Zoo mentality (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 3terrabyte (693824) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @11:31AM (#10776903) Journal
          Not to mention the huge conservative Christian community that helped Bush into office because of their fear (or possibly valid religious beliefs) against Gay Marriage.

          The same homophobic people will then turn around and chuckle at the thought of men raping men in prison. It's got to stop. That is not the punishment that judges hand out, but it is definately one that gets handed out in all serious prisons.

          • Here's an easy solution: Don't commit a crime and you won't go to jail.

            And your statement "The same homophobic people will then turn around and chuckle at the thought of men raping men in prison" is an invalid stereotype/generalization. Perhaps the only reason you said this is because you feel this way.
    • Re:Zoo mentality (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:31AM (#10776220) Journal
      I don't know, it seems to me like it's justified nevertheless.

      1. Although I find it an inherently cold and heartless thought, we put a price in dollars on a human life all the time. Compare the losses caused by a spammer to that, and it's quite easy to end up higher than the cost of a life.

      No, I'm not talking "but a second to delete a spam message costs nothing!" Even then, time is ultimately money. (E.g., you pay over $1000 for a faster computer, yes, to save time. And how many of those upgrades are ultimately just to be able to run an even slower antivirus, spyware killer, etc? That's money costs inflicted by the spammers upon society.)

      I'm also talking lots of other effects, such as the cost incurred to companies and individuals to maintain all those spam filters. The IT costs of preventing and cleaning with viruses that exist only to install spam zombies. Costs incurred to ISP's and companies just to deal with the bandwidth and storage used up by spam _and_ all those viruses trying to install spam zombies. Costs related to false positives. (E.g., a missed business opportunity because an email from a legitimate business partner was filtered out.)

      Plus the insidious cost of having a valuable communication resource plundered and turned into a worthless wasteland. Whereas we all used to gladly read and answer emails from strangers (e.g., questions about my walkthrough for a game, some yes, including attached pics of where they got lost), nowadays an email from a stranger is most likely to be junked without reading. Doubly so if it contains an attachment of any kind.

      I also used to freely give my email address to everyone. Nowadays if someone did that, you'd call them an idiot clueless (l)user. Nowadays if you must enter an email address, it's some black hole account just supposed to be a garbage bin for spam.

      All this is not just business opportunities, but literal pollution of a valuable resource, and it affects hundreds of millions of people. Even if you put a 1$ price on that resource for each user affected, you easily end up with a monumental loss that those spammers caused to society.

      Yes, higher than what we currently price one life at. Cynical, but true.

      2. My favourite example: I think of it not in dollars, but in seconds. A murderer has shortened someone's life by, say, 20 years. And we can execute him for that.

      Now let's look at spam. Let's say 100,000,000 users receive spam. Let's also say each user is only robbed of 1 minute per day dealing with spam, installing and updating spam filters, de-installing spam zombies, etc. (Just spending an hour on that software every 2 months, already uses up that 1 minute per day quota. So not unrealistic.)

      That means in just 2 months, those users have been robbed of 100,000,000 hours out of their lives! That's 4166667 days! Or more than 100,000 YEARS!

      So we can execute someone for stealing 20 years out of someone's life, but you think 9 years in prison is too much for robbing 100,000+ years from us all? Seems to me like it's equivalent to more than 5000 murders. People have been hanged tried as war criminals and mass-murderers for far less than that.

      So au contraire, I think the fucktard got off disproportionately lightly. If there was justice and keeping the punishment proportional, a spammer would need to die a thousand deaths. (Which, unfortunately, is impossible anyway.)
    • Re:Zoo mentality (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Richard Aday (816593)
      I completly agree with you. I see no reason why we need to fill our prisons with criminals who did not commit rape/robbery/murder (or any other violent act). At most I would jail him for a year and make him do 2 years worth of community service. But with that jail time would come a warning that if he did it again, it would be 5 years.

      A lot of you argue that the time taken away from deleting spam adds up to hundreds of thousands of years. Someone even went far enough to say that it's more time taken awa
  • by Shnizzzle (652228) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:59AM (#10775861)
    and go to jail for nine years. Drive a car drunk, sell crack, or commit rape and serve far less (or even any) time. I love this country.
    • by onion2k (203094) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:06AM (#10775919) Homepage
      Just goes to show the punishment for drunk driving, selling crack and rape are too lenient, not that the punishment for spam is too harsh.
      • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @11:23AM (#10776810) Journal
        Just goes to show the punishment for drunk driving, selling crack and rape are too lenient, not that the punishment for spam is too harsh.

        the USA already incarcerates a greater proportion of its population than any other nation in the world because of sentencing practices harsher than any other industrialized country. If prison actually prevented crime we should have a low crime rate, but no, we have more crime than any develpoed nation.
    • sell crack [...] and serve far less (or even any) time

      Unlike smoking crack, this crime actually had victims. Real, honest to jebus money-losing victims.

      (Admittedly, very stupid victims who would probably have given up money for magic beans.)
    • I just question that jail/prison is an appropriate punishment. It isn't that I feel prison is too harsh. It is just that it is very expensive (to the taxpayer) and it keeps criminals in the company of other criminals, which I feel is not an environment conducive to learning to act in a non-criminal manner.

      Of course I haven't come up with a fitting alternative. Fines can not be administered fairly to criminals in different financial tiers and public flogging is generally not approved of.

      Side note: after
    • and go to jail for nine years. Drive a car drunk, sell crack, or commit rape and serve far less (or even any) time. I love this country.

      The defense lawyer did a REALLY shabby job. He said "they acted like shitheads only because they were trying to get rich fast"

      So yes they got a harsh sentence but if I was a jurror you can bet that would have pushed my "for maximum punishment" trigger finger too.

      If a rapist had the defense of "I raped her because I knew it would feel so fucking good" you can be assured

    • It appears that asking nicely and saying 'pretty please' does not get their attention enough to make them stop. Nor do 100Kbuck fines.

      Added extra brownie points: Those nine years in prison are without a computer.

      I can imagine the finger spasms now.

  • considering... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kalpol (714519)
    the amount and cost of the bandwidth they stole, nine years is about right.
  • Two Wrongs... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dorward (129628) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:00AM (#10775864) Homepage Journal
    Well maybe the victims did deserve everything they got, but two wrongs do not make a right in America. (Guantanamo Bay is in Cuba)

    • Re:Two Wrongs... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sharok (301384)
      Now that is brilliant. Must be the secret to the impunity of the American government.
      After all, they Never Do Any Wrong (TM) - on US soil at least. When cameras are present. Or the journalist cannot be "kidnapped".
  • by BobSutan (467781) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:00AM (#10775871)
    Proportionality be damned. They're out for blood and need to make an example of him. What I have been wondering is why spammers even need to spend time in jail. Wouldn't a large fine be in order and serve the same purpose? Do we really need more non-violent criminals crowding up our jails and costing taxpayers even more money?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:10AM (#10775955)
      No.

      Fines don't work. When you are a professional scammer and thief, this is just the cost of doing business. Its just like thugs that work certain neighborhoods have to pay a percentage to the local mob boss.

      And there are no debtors prisons in the US. If he moves his operations overseas, while still maintaining a residence in the US, the money is more or less untouchable...he'll just declare bankruptcy and move to a state that doesn't allow forclosure of primary home and vehicle for bankruptcy and drive a Hummer to his quarterbillion house and be out of reach of the authorities.

      Prison sentences are the only way to go. The guy knew it was wrong and choose to do so anyways. For that, jail time is appropriate. 9 years in jail? Maybe over the line, but then again, he knew the risks...if I was told if I spit on a sidewalk I'd go to prison for life, I'd be sure not to spit on the sidewalk (or be prepared to take the consequences for doing so).
    • A proportionate punishment would be to ban them (temporarly on a first offence, permanently for subsequent offences) from: access to the internet, being directors or shareholders involved in any way with a companies that do any business using the 'net. Confiscation of all equipment used in their spamming, confiscation of all the proceeds of their criminal acts plus a fine based on the volume and type of spam. Eg sending out spam with intent to defraud is more serious then spamming to advertise an on-line ph

    • "Wouldn't a large fine be in order and serve the same purpose?"

      The problem with large fines is that people have a habit of simply not paying them. Declare bankruptcy, start working under the table, go on with life.

      I think jail time is key, though 9 years is excessive. Fines would be good, but make them not so stiff to the point that a person can't pay them, but stiff enough to make it hurt.

      10 years of mandatory audits by the IRS would be cool, too.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yes, spamming is not comparable to rape. It is white collar crime. However, the solution is not to go all powder puff on these people. If a rapist convicted at the same time as a spammer will get out of prison earlier than the spammer, guess what. The spammer is not in for too long, the rapist is not in for long enough.
  • by Tim C (15259) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:03AM (#10775897)
    Than you can for rape, or causing death by dangerous driving, etc, then there's something wrong with the justice system.
    • When you can serve longer for spamming than you can for rape, or causing death by dangerous driving, etc, then there's something wrong with the justice system.

      First of all, it wasn't just a cut-and-dried spamming cause. The guy was committing fraud. Think of it as a fraud case, not a spam case.

      And second of all, there exists such a thing as "mitigating circumstances." There is not some absolute, gradient scale of crime/punishment proportionality whereby each successively worse crime automatically warr
    • You're absolutely right. The typical sentences for rape and negligent homicide are far too short.
  • by brandonY (575282) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:04AM (#10775901)
    Rape is usually about 5-20 years, isn't it? I agree that 9 years is a little extreme for spamming.

    The problem with our society is that we can't figure out a better way to punish people than to put them in jail for a decade or so and let them think about what they did. We're not quakers, for the love of God. Why can't we just:

    1.) Take all the money paid to him for spamming,
    2.) Fine the companies that paid him to spam, give as much of that money back to the gullible suckers as we can, and
    3.) Give him 50 lashes and tell him he's not allowed to use email for 5 years.
    • punishment (Score:3, Insightful)

      by r00t (33219)
      Damn right, but americans are too squeamish to
      deliver 50 lashes.

      Fines are unfair. They are nothing to the wealthy,
      and the poor simply won't -- can't -- pay.

      Jail is unfair. For the poor, it is free food and
      housing. Oddly, the rich (see Martha Stewart) seem
      to get off pretty easy too. The rich don't have
      employment to worry about either.

      It's always the middle class that suffers the most
      from our current forms of punishment.

      At least with lashes, you have to be one of a few
      perverts to enjoy the punishment.

      BTW
      • Re:punishment (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Idarubicin (579475)
        Fines are unfair. They are nothing to the wealthy, and the poor simply won't -- can't -- pay.

        You could scale the fines to be proportional to income. The idea is that the same offense should result in the same approximate level of pain. Norway does this; occasionally it results in a wealthy individual receiving a ten thousand dollar speeding ticket.

        Community service might be an appropriate substitute. An hour is an hour to everyone.

    • Rape is usually about 5-20 years, isn't it? I agree that 9 years is a little extreme for spamming.

      9 years would be an extremely high sentence for spamming one person. Conversely, 5-20 years would be an extremely low sentence for raping hundreds of thousands of people.
    • by Kombat (93720) <kombat@kombat.org> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:50AM (#10776431) Homepage
      I agree that 9 years is a little extreme for spamming.

      The sentence wasn't just for spamming. Think of it as a fraud case, not a spam case. The guy was sending his own fraudulent emails, taking peoples' money, and not delivering.

      Why can't we just:

      1.) Take all the money paid to him for spamming,


      Because much of it may be already spent on things you can't get back (traveling, gambling, fancy hotel rooms, meals, liquor), or hidden away in offshore accounts. You can never conclusively determine exactly how much money he scammed off of people.

      2.) Fine the companies that paid him to spam,

      Because as I said, he wasn't spamming for anyone but himself. He was spamming his own porno websites, and his own fraudulent "get rich quick" scams.

      3.) Give him 50 lashes and tell him he's not allowed to use email for 5 years.

      Think of him in the same league as the Enron/Worldcom/Tyco/Bre-X execs that defrauded shareholders out of millions of dollars. He's not some little two-bit spammer, he's a fraudster, seeking to routinely rip-off unsuspecting consumers. 9 years is what he deserves, and I hope he serves every last day of it in some federal, PMITA-prison, with no parole.
    • Rape is usually about 5-20 years, isn't it? I agree that 9 years is a little extreme for spamming.

      You're comparing apples and PCs. 5-20 years is for _ONE_ count of rape, not (say) 25 million.

      What would be a typical sentence for 25 million counts of rape? Compare that to 9 years.
  • by koi88 (640490) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:04AM (#10775903)

    Last week my neighbour's brat rang my door bell then ran away.
    I demand at least 5 years in prison as it's not the first time he did that and I'm not the only victim.
  • by geoffspear (692508) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:04AM (#10775907) Homepage
    The spammers in this case comitted many counts of fraud. If they'd been charged with that (which probably would have been a tougher case to make than proving they'd sent emails that hid their identity), they probably would have gotten a much longer sentence. Everyone, the spammers included, should be happy that the prosecuters decided to make an example of them for spamming instead of putting together a solid fraud case with a few thousand consecutive sentences.
  • by davejenkins (99111) <slashdot@davejenkin s . c om> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:06AM (#10775922) Homepage
    1. Is this nine years in Supermax/leavenworth breaking rocks, or is it nine years in white-collar minimum security for dysfunctional mob accountants?

    2. Certainly the criminals can get out earlier with good behaviour.

    3. Porportionality, and the excess thereof, is the entire basis behind "prison" as a concept: we try to make that destination deplorable enough to try and discourage certain behaviours that society deems as "crimes".

    4. These bozos made the mistake of committing a crime where the jurors themselves were also victims (indirectly). Stupid. Very, very stupid.
    • 2. Certainly the criminals can get out earlier with good behaviour.


      Nope. This is VA, where we have a truth in sentencing law. For any crime committed after Jan. 1st, 1995 there is no parole, no time off for good behavior.

  • No new laws (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Monoman (8745) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:07AM (#10775936) Homepage
    This a good example of why we probably don't need new laws. If they committed fraud then convict them of fraud, regardless of the mechanism. If they went phishing and stole money right out of accounts, then charge them accordingly. The sentences would then be more in line with expectations. However, one could argue that sentences are too short becuase they obviously aren't deterring enough. :-)

    IANAL: Why do people think the different methods of committing a crime require different laws? Is murder by using a knife versus a crowbar defined and treated differently in the law books?

    • Re:No new laws (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Idarubicin (579475)
      This a good example of why we probably don't need new laws. If they committed fraud then convict them of fraud, regardless of the mechanism. If they went phishing and stole money right out of accounts, then charge them accordingly.

      On the other hand, there is a school of thought that the act of sending the spam--in and of itself, regardless of whether it is fraudulent or not--is also destructive to society. It makes email a less valuable tool for everyone.

      Telemarketers have restrictions on who they can

  • Poor defence (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wiggys (621350) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:07AM (#10775938)
    I'm sorry but I don't hate spammers because they want to get rich quick. The desire to get rich quick is a natural, healthy and legal one!

    I hate spammers because they are lying, thieving scamming criminal bastards.

    They hijack computers to send out millions of junk messages to millions of people. They do this to be anonymous and therefore unaccountable, and they use other people's bandwidth to send out their junk.

    Some spammers send out pornographic email knowing damn well thousands of kids will end up with it in their inboxes, and they include spurious text in the messages to try to evade spam filters.

    I would wager than 99% of all products they advertise via spam are fake or illegal. Anyone stupid or ignorant enough to buy anything from one of these criminals is simply encouraging them to annoy more and more people.

    It's not about getting-rich-quick that I have the problem with, it's the way they go about it.
  • Why not fraud (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:09AM (#10775948) Homepage
    It was pretty clear from the article that these guys were also guilty of fraud. They had a 30% chargeback rate and from the description of what was involved in the chargebacks, I'm surprised 30% were that persistent.

    I'm curious why fraud charges weren't stacked on top of all this.

    I'm not complaining. 9 years for spamming. I just hope this guy isn't the last. I really want to see them go after as many of these guys as they can. Going after 1 isn't much of a deterrant. Going after dozens could be. It's not like there are as many big-time spammers as there are file sharers. You don't have to get that many convictions to start scaring them.
  • Spammers like this are essentially guilty of false advertising, concealing their identity, digital identity theft, and flagrant misuse of public and private networks.

    They suck time and bandwidth from system administrators, sell products they know don't work as advertised, make it difficult or impossible for customers to seek restitution, and wreak havoc on the digital lives of those they impersonate.

    They're liars, thieves, swindlers, frauds, cheats, conmen. And like anyone in those professions, they justi
  • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:10AM (#10775960) Homepage
    Wasn't it obvious? People get charged with jaywalking, conspiracy to jaywalk, purchase of running shoes with intent to jaywalk, reckless jaywalking, disregarding traffic signals with intent to jaywalk, and end up pleading down to "just" a year.

    "There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them." - Ayn Rand

    Not that spammers don't deserve jail time, but realize that we're quickly approaching a stage where everyone is guilty of something.
  • by advocate_one (662832) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:10AM (#10775963)
    Spamming, or fraud. IIRC, they were actually found guilty of committing fraud. The fact that they spammed peoples mailboxes to find "easy marks" is by the by... Fraud is Fraud... and it carries a hefty punishment.
  • I hope his fellow inmates really like spam and for best results the viagra ones. Can you imagine the *hard* time his going to get?

    "Come here bitch, i've got something for you" ;)

  • by ColourlessGreenIdeas (711076) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:14AM (#10776008)
    I have no complaints about spammers selling dodgy things to gullible individuals. The only thing I complain about is them causing hassle to non-gullible individuals in the process. So I don't see the relevance of that argument.
  • There is actually nothing wrong with trying to get rich quick. The problem is getting rich quick at someone else's expence. Nine years is harsh, it is what I would expect for a violent crime.

    I hate spammers as much as the next guy, but I can not agree that the punishment should be equal to crimes of violence such as rape, murder, and assault. I would submit t

  • a significant reduction in the SPAM they're receiving? At our organization (2500+ employees) the number of SPAMS went down by about 1/3 the day after this sentencing, and has stayed down ever since. Coincidence?
  • What about chat and message boards spamming... What about chat and message boards spamming... What about chat and message boards spamming... What about chat and message boards spamming... What about chat and message boards spamming... What about chat and message boards spamming... (sorry if this wasnt funny, feel free to mod down)
  • by RandoX (828285) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:15AM (#10776025)
    He should just send an apology email for each spam. That would certainly cut down on the problem.
  • by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:17AM (#10776043) Homepage
    Spammers deserve a solid punishment, IMHO. They waste people's time, one of the most precious things people have. Maybe just a few seconds per mail, but multiplied by millions (at least, maybe hundreds of millions).

    They waste network bandwidth, most of which is paid by others. Server capacity is wasted with spam-filtering. Admins, developers & home users have to waste time on writing/deploying anti-spam software.

    They make e-mail, a very useful internet resource, a lot less useful, and I view that as a form of vandalism.

    Much of their work is done by breaking into other people's computers (zombie networks), which in itself is illegal in many places. Not to speak of other uses (DDoS attacks etc.) spammers may have for zombie networks they control.

    Users don't want spam, there are laws against this, and even in the face of all this, spammers continue with their business on a massive scale. So sorry, but they deserve every punishment they get.

  • proportionality is becoming a completely forgotten concept.

    The US has more people in jail as a percentage of the population than Russia.

    I hate spammers as much as anyone but is this really who we want filling up our federal prisons?

    • by Steve B (42864)
      I hate spammers as much as anyone but is this really who we want filling up our federal prisons?

      Yes, I want people who premeditate and execute attacks on millions of people's private property to fill up our prisons. (I'd prefer Abu Ghirab, but prison will do.) Make room by letting out the people convicted of victimless "crimes" (e.g. drug posession).

  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:22AM (#10776103) Homepage
    People keep running the comparison to violent crimes. So let's keep doing that and show what I think about it and how they compare.

    Murder and rape are rarely, if ever, premeditated. When they are, the sentence is WAY beyond 9 years. Crimes of passion are handled in a much lighter way in most cases... as they should be.

    Spamming and fraud are not crimes of passion -- they are more than simply premediated, they are planned to very small details. While committing the offense, they continue to show contempt by attempting to evade the people trying to stop them. This is a HUGE lack of respect for other people and for their property. A hefty fine and/or a short time in jail isn't going to teach the man some respect... but someone named Bubba that he might share his cell with might be able to do that over time.

    Will he be in for 9? I doubt it... it's a state conviction... he'll be out in 3 or less. But he'll also belong to the state on parole for the remaining time... waiting, watching for him to do it again... and if he does, *SLAM!* -- deep shit.
  • by Theovon (109752) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:24AM (#10776132)
    I realize our justice system all about law and completely devoid of ethics, but sometimes the jurys are allowed to inject some sanity. Spammers are FULLY AWARE that they're intruding on millions of people who won't want to be intruded upon. They shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

    But then the legal system responds to citizen unrest and develops laws which try to restrict what spammers can do.

    NOW, the spammer is flagrantly violating both ethics and the law. They're filling your inbox with thousands of unwanted emails, stealing half the available handwidth in the fastest networks, and costing people inordinate amounts of money, just so the spammer can scam 0.01% of his email recipients. AND THEY KNOW IT.

    I think people should be hanged for such flagrant disregard for everyone else on the planet. 9 years in prison? He got off light.
  • It's a simple fact that spam costs ISPs lots of money. If someone stole millions from AOL and got a 9 year sentence, no one would think twice. But if someone forces AOL to spend millions to block the unwanted spam, suddenly that's ok?! It makes no sense.

  • This IS balanced (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tx (96709) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:32AM (#10776226) Journal
    I see a lot of people saying things like "you do more time for rape and muder, so these sentences are disproportional". But the purpose of the criminal justice system is to try and make people comply with the law, not just to punish them for breaking it. Increasing the sentences for already serious crimes like rape and murder won't significantly affect the likelihood of people comitting those crimes, because of the nature of the crimes. On the other hand, if a crime like spamming is seen as a high-profit, low risk option (slap on the wrist and a fine), the law will be widely broken. It is therefore perfectly reasonable to impose hefty jailtime sentences to make sure spamming is not seen as a low-risk crime. Just my 2 cents.
  • by JollyFinn (267972) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:37AM (#10776278)
    Thats correct, he made millions with it so probably send billions of spams.
    Now other reason is that he will probably sit in a prison HALF the sentence,
    and non violent can get out with good behavior at that time.
  • by StressGuy (472374) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:46AM (#10776392)
    I've often thought that the basic concept of a time based prison sentance was flawed. Other than opportunity for parole, there's really no incentive for rehabilitation with this system. I just breaks down to managing the prison population until it's time to release them back into society.

    What if, instead of a time based prison system, we could incorporate a level based system? The further within the system you go, the less priveledges you would have. Instead of years within the system, it would be levels within the system that you must earn your way out of in order to be released. This would also have the effect of causing similar types of criminals to be populated together. The very top level could be something like a "half way house" that would replace the concept of parole. To ultimately earn your freedom, you'd have to have demonstrated your ability to function as a law abiding citizen.

    White collar criminals, like our spammer, could also have thier assets taken while they are in prison to make restitution for monetary damages.

    The idea needs development I realize, but I think it would emphasize rehabilitation more than a time based system would.

  • by mykepredko (40154) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:51AM (#10776437) Homepage
    Personally, I would think that the 9 year jail time is "proportional" punishment for a number of reasons:

    1. How much time was spent deleting the emails that this guy sent - say it takes a cent an email, everytime he sends out 10M emails, this costs the economy $100,000. So taking that into acount, we can probably say that $50-$100 M is lost to the economy each year.

    2. How much has been spent on Spam filters, installation and upgrades? How many billions of dollars per year are spent by businesses, individuals and governments? Let's be conservative and say $100M per year.

    3. How much bandwidth has been stolen, proxies illegally set up? What is the cost to individuals, businesses, government - again being conservative let's say $50M per year.

    4. I won't even guess at the amount of money that this guy's clients have taken from (dumb) people that respond to the emails.

    So, looking at this from this prospective, this guy is a kingpin in a minimum $200M per year scam. It could probably be argued that this guy's contribution to the problem could cost society $200M per year. What do you think is an appropriate punishment for a crime of this magnitude?

    Fines for this type of behavior don't work; the spammer will just declare bankrupcy after moving his money to a protected location.

    The comparison to the time given to a rapist or murderer is not reasonable. I would expect that the spammer is going to end up in a minimum-security institution. Where a rapist or murderer will end up in a maximum security prison or better. On leaving prison, a rapist/murderer is normally required to register where they are living and will be regularly interviewed by police when there is a crime that is similar in nature to theirs - they can never leave this behind them.

    The spammer, if he does change his ways, can lead a new life after prison with it just being remembered as a mistake that he didn't fully understand the consequences to - but at least he try to destroy somebody's life (as a violent criminal would have to live with).

    myke

  • Typical "Justice" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:59AM (#10776540)
    As an ex con who did my share of months in ohios system, this really is nothing new. I spent time inside with a rapist that was sentenced to 3 years (with a prior felony record) and a man that was extorting a catholic priest (the priest supposedly molested his girlfriend) that got 6 years for that.....

    So a violent rape gets 3, but extortion (not even with a threat of violence) gets 6....

    There is no proportionality in sentencing, there is too much leeway...and they are entirely too ready to lock individuals up, where they can go to criminal college, because let me tell you, prison is nothing but an educational system for crime...

    I did not know anything about the criminal lifestyle before going in, now I could (not going to) make crack, and meth, and more importantly how to sell them......without committing the same mistakes that the others made.

    The "treatment" that is offered, is a joke, I committed my crime in the heat of passion, under a ton of stress and had a blackout (from bipolar disorder was manic)--no therapy, just give me drugs to make me calm....

    Others sold their happy pills.....for cigarettes....it was so noisy that i kept em--have to sleep someway...

    And when you get out it is almost impossible to obtain employment. But child support is still going at the rate that you had ordered and earned before you went in so i owe over 10 grand to them--they can garnish up to 65% of net....so what do you do if you cant earn a living with good pay to begin with, and they take out 65% of what you would bring home--my checks right now are less than 150 a week....

    The life of crime is looking better and better, I simply cannot make it trying to stay straight.........
  • by Toby The Economist (811138) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @11:13AM (#10776703)
    Crime is detered when criminals believe the chances are they will be caught.

    This requires long term investment in the police forces.

    Crime is not detered by heavy sentancing since if the criminal believes the chances are he will not be caught, the sentance is irrelevent.

    Heavy sentancing however can be enacted instantly, by act of law, unlike long term investment in police forces (which is also, of course, expensive and has little immediate effect).

    Over the decades, there has been a general failure to invest in police forces because of the cost and lack of immediacy and, due to the consequencial lack of decrease in crime, a general turning towards increasingly heavy sentancing.

    This does not work. It also gradually leads to penalities become entirely disproportional to offence, leading to institutionalized injustice.

    Such is the current state of affairs.

    --
    Toby
  • by Presence1 (524732) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @11:26AM (#10776842) Homepage
    ... is that this is not just unsolicited email, it is FRAUD.

    If he was just sending unsolicited email advertising a real product that actually worked, then 9 years would indeed be too harsh. Creating an annoyance, even to many people, should not be punished more harshly than some murders and rapes.

    But, he deliberately worked to deceive people in order to steal their money by selling a product that didn't work and that he knew didn't work. This is theft, and when done on such a grand scale ($400K - $700K per month), deserves to be so harshly punished. It could be argued that this is too light, considering the several year sentences typical for car theft.

    I'd also be inclined to punish him for stupidity. Having raked in several million dollars in a few months, he should have been long gone sunning himself on a beach in Brazil under a new identity, not sitting around waiting to be busted.
  • by redelm (54142) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @11:39AM (#10776986) Homepage
    For once, I read the article. The whole thing. And I didn't really see anything that explained why 9 years was good, or that 9 months was too little, or that 19 would have been better. It mostly seemed to be the DA boasting and explaining why the prosecution was needed.

    I don't have a problem with the prosecution. It was fraud, on several levels. Nor do I have a problem with the punishment. AFAIK exemplary sentences _are_ allowed, even under US law. One major purpose of the entire justice system is deterrence. Punishment is too late, and must not be a licence.

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