Perspective: Free Jeremy Jaynes!

PERSPECTIVE If the tough prison sentence against criminal spammer Jeremy Jaynes holds up through appeals, I imagine his first day in the slammer will go something like this:

Bubba: Hey new guy. Whatcha in for?

Jaynes: I forged the headers and other routing information in some unsolicited commercial e-mails.


Bubba: Huh?

But my guess is, Jaynes' nine-year sentence won't stick -- nor should it, if our court system hews to the philosophy that the punishment must fit the crime.

Don't get me wrong. Jeremy Jaynes, a.k.a "Gaven Stubberfield," is a big-time sleaze. Prosecutors had no trouble demonizing Jaynes before a Virginia jury. He specialized in spam for raunchy "zoo" porn. He ran "Fed-ex refund processor" spam-scams that hurt people already on the financial fringe. He's been on the Spamhaus list of the Internet's biggest spam kings since 2001.

But Jaynes' sentence didn't stem from all those bad things. The jury merely found him guilty of three counts of "falsifying or forging electronic mail transmission information or other routing information in connection with the transmission of spam."

For this violation of Virginia's spam law, Jaynes faces a prison sentence comparable to that of people convicted of violent crimes such as rape.

Spammers often manipulate the headers of their e-mails to slip through spam filters and to protect their identities. It's a sleazy, fraudulent tactic that ends up costing society dearly. But is forging headers on par with heinous crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping, and child molestation?

You could argue that Jaynes' estimated net worth of $24 million was derived entirely through harm to society. He cost Internet users and their ISPs even more in the cumulative expense of cleaning up from his billions of junk e-mails.

But I don't see anything about reparations to victims in Jaynes' sentence. He won't be paying off his debt to society with his checkbook. In fact, it's entirely possible that Jaynes may do his prison time, and still have his 5,8000-square-foot, million-dollar Raleigh mansion and spam fortune awaiting him when he gets out.

There's no doubt that, if this sentence sticks, it will strike fear in the hearts of many US-based spammers. That's a good thing. The ineffectual CAN-SPAM federal law has made spammers more brazen than ever.

But what about junk e-mailers elsewhere in the world? Do you really think spam kings in Russia or Argentina are going to worry about a Virginia state law? Is it reasonable to expect that the governments of such countries are going to start expediting spammers?

Spam haters surely will cheer if Jaynes is marched off to the Virginia state pen. But, at the end of what could be years of court appeals, if Jaynes' sentence remains intact, I foresee a backlash from ordinary citizens.

Remember, over a third of U.S. citizens who use the Internet have bought from spammers. A recent poll says Internet users are becoming more accustomed to living with spam. Jaynes' attorney is already working the media, noting that his client is a "compassionate businessman who built homes for the poor and gave to charities."

I don't expect people to rally to Jaynes' cause with public demonstrations, or to post impassioned pleas at (yes, the domain is still available as of this writing).

He's scum and deserves to pay. But this nine-year sentence threatens to make a martyr of Jeremy Jaynes.

Brian McWilliams is a journalist and author of Spam Kings: The real story behind the high-rolling hucksters pushing porn, pills, and @*#?% enlargements.

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