Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Spammer Conviction

Joanne Cachapero
RICHMOND, Va. — On Friday, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the first felony conviction for spamming against Jeremy Jaynes, once listed as the eighth worst spammer in the world by The Spamhaus Project Registry of Known Spammer Organizations.

Jaynes was convicted in 2004 by the Loudoun County Circuit Court on three counts of violating Virginia’s Anti-Spam Act, which became law in 2003. Prosecutors in the case accused Jaynes of using AOL’s private computer network, which is located in Virginia, to send millions of spam advertisements. The judgment against Jaynes was the first felony conviction under the antispamming laws.

The conviction was appealed, but in September 2006, the Virginia Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the Anti-Spam Act, and now the Virginia Supreme Court has followed suit.

Jaynes’ attorneys argued that the Anti-Spam Act violates the First Amendment as well as the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. However, the Virginia Supreme Court voted 4-3 to uphold the lower courts’ ruling.

"Unfortunately, the state that gave birth to the First Amendment has, with this ruling, diminished that freedom for all of us," Jaynes' attorney Thomas M. Wolf said. "As three justices pointed out in dissent, the majority's decision will have far-reaching consequences. The statute criminalizes sending bulk anonymous email, even for the purpose of petitioning the government or promoting religion."

At his original trial, Jaynes was accused of sending 53,000 illegal emails over a three-day period, but authorities believed that he was responsible for sending 10 million unsolicited emails a day, and taking in profits of more than $750,000 a month.

The Supreme Court ruling in Virginia may have an effect on the upcoming trial of spammer Robert Soloway. Prosecutors have accused Soloway, who was arrested in May, of sending millions of unsolicited emails through the use of “zombie” computers that were infected with botnet software.

Soloway also faces charges of fraud and identity theft charges, which could result in jail time. The U.S. District Attorney is seeking nearly $800,000 in fines for the spamming violations.

Despite prosecutions by authorities, spam accounted for nearly 75 percent of emails sent during November 2007, which marked a yearly high, according to monitoring by Internet security provider Symantec.