1st Felony Spam Conviction Is Upheld

Rhett Pardon
RICHMOND, Va. — The nation's first felony conviction of illegal spamming was upheld Tuesday by the Virginia Court of Appeals.

Jeremy Jaynes, considered one of the top spammers in the world at the time of his arrest, used up to 16 broadband connections to send hundreds of thousands of emails per day, according to court documents.

Jaynes was responsible for a large amount of animal sex porn spam and used another front, “National Wealth Builders,” to promote get-rich schemes.

In Tuesday’s ruling, the appeals court wrote unanimously that the state has a “legitimate public interest” in policing unsolicited email and that Virginia’s anti-spamming law's impact on interstate commerce “is incidental and clearly not excessive.”

Jaynes was convicted in November 2004 for using false Internet addresses and aliases to send mass email ads through an AOL server in Loudoun County, where Time Warner Inc. subsidiary AOL is based.

Under Virginia law, sending unsolicited bulk email is not a crime unless the sender masks his identity. It was put on the books in July 2003, nearly the same time the federal Can-Spam law took effect.

When his home was searched, police found CDs containing at least 176 million email addresses and more than 1.3 billion user names. They also found zip discs containing 107 million AOL addresses, all of them stolen.

His business was so prolific, police say that his operations earned up to $750,000 per month.

A Loudoun County jury had recommended the nine-year term for Jaynes, but Judge Thomas Horne delayed the start of his prison term during the appeal, saying the law raised constitutional questions.

Jaynes appeal said his conviction should have been overturned because the trial court lacked jurisdiction, Virginia’s statute violated the 1st Amendment and is unconstitutionally vague and the statute violates the dormant commerce clause, which limits the power of states to legislate in connection with interstate commerce.

The court’s ruling rejected his appeal and affirmed the sentence, but Jaynes’ attorney said he would appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.