Court Nixes Free Speech Claim, Upholds First-Ever Spam Felony Conviction

The Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling that the state’s antispamming law did not violate spammer Jeremy Jaynes’ free speech rights is a good thing, said John Palfrey, executive director of Harvard Law’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “I’m a strong believer in the First Amendment, but there is a point where the First Amendment doesn’t protect criminal activity.”A spammer is going to prison, thanks to a ruling by a divided Virginia Supreme Court. The state’s high court on Friday upheld the first felony conviction for illegal spamming in the U.S. when it ruled 4-3 that Virginia’s antispamming law did not violate the free speech rights of Jeremy Jaynes.”This is a historic victory in the fight against online crime,” said Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell. “Spam not only clogs e-mail in-boxes and destroys productivity; it also defrauds citizens and threatens the online revolution that is so critical to Virginia’s economic prosperity.”Friday’s ruling proves that Virginia’s statute has teeth, McDonnell added. “Thanks to the Virginia Anti-Spam Act, we now have the tools to go after spammers and put them behind bars.” All 50 states have antispam laws. Supreme Court Says Spam is not Protected Free Speech
Upholding the conviction of one of the world’s most notorious spammers, a tight 4-3 ruling in Virginia’s Supreme Court determined that spam is not a form of protected free speech.Jeremy Jaynes, a resident of Raleigh, N.C., had previously been listed by spam-tracking firm Spamhaus as the “8th most prolific spammer in the world,” and was arrested in December 2003 on charges of violating a new Virginia anti-spam law, enacted the previous June.At the time, prosecutors said that in a period of just one month, Jaynes and a partner sent over 100,000 e-mails to AOL users that were in turn reported as spam, with untold more going to other ISPs. Using a T1 line, Jaynes used fake names and return addresses to peddle everything from bad stocks to work-at-home schemes. One such scheme saw 10,000 $39.95 orders for a “FedEx refund processor,” which supposedly paid $75 an hour. Spam Felony Conviction Upheld
Spammers beware: despite some doubt that the first spammer to ever be convicted under the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act would actually go to jail for his deeds, the former junk mailer will indeed spend time behind bars for his crime. On Friday, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the decision of a lower court [PDF] to sentence Jeremy Jaynes to nine years in prison.

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