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August 17, 2005
Jason Smathers: Internet Criminal

Let's think about this a second. Our good friend Jason Smathers sold 92 million America Online e-mail addresses to a spammer for $28,000. Those names generated an estimated 7 billion spam e-mail messages so far, and caused at least $400,000 in damages to AOL. And for that, the judge sentenced him to one year and three months in jail, and a payment of $82,000 in restitution to AOL (see AOL Worker Who Stole E-Mail List Sentenced). That works out as follows:

  • For every name Jason stole he is spending about 1/3 of a second in jail.
  • For every spam message sent (so far) as a result of his action, Jason is spending 5 one hundredths of a second in jail.
  • For every dollar of damage he caused his former employer, Jason is paying 20 cents. If you net out the money he received for the names, it works out to 14 cents.
  • For the damage he has done to the Internet community, Jason reportedly shed a tear in front of the judge.

I'll have to try that "shed a tear thing" when I go up north in a couple of weeks to fight a speeding ticket. Hell, it worked for Jason, maybe it'll work for me.

Look, I'm no sort of red-state, judge-hating kind of a guy, but the leniency of this sentence is nothing short of appalling. Jason Smathers is a criminal, plain and simple. Whatever the CAN-SPAM act may say, he is clearly guilty of theft. More important, he is guilty of enabling Internet crooks to do everything from annoying people to destroying their computer files, and worse, including stealing their identity and their money.

One year and three months and $82,000 is just not enough punishment for a crime of that magnitude.

Posted by John Dickinson at 02:58 PM | Permalink

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