A Loudoun County jury of three felony charges found JeremyJaynes, 30, and his sister Jessica DeGroot, 28, both of Raleighguilty after they bombarded thousands of America Online e-mailaccounts with unsolicited e-mail, according to prosecutors.
The two used phony Internet addresses to sendmasses of e-mail ads through an AOL server in Loudoun County. The jury recommended that Jaynes serve nine years in prison andDeGroot pay $7,500 in fines for violating Virginia’s anti-spamlaw.
A third defendant, Richard Rutkoski, 30, alsoof the Raleigh area, was acquitted of three felony counts.
According to the Washington Post, experts sayspam accounts for more than 70 percent of all e-mails and costbusinesses $20 billion a year to filter or block.
Prosecutors said DeGroot and Rutkowski bothsupported and profited from the spamming business.
“This is a major victory for Virginians andall Americans,” said
Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, whoseoffice prosecuted the case.
“Spam is a nuisance to millions of Americans,but it is also a major problem for businesses large and smallbecause the thousands of unwanted e-mails create havoc as theyattempt to conduct commerce.”
During the trial, prosecutors depicted Jaynesas the leader of the spam
operation because it was run out of hishome. But David A. Oblon,
Jayne’s lawyer upheld that the state could notprove that Haynes sent e-mails to people who did not ask forthem.
“The jury found evidence that just wasn’tthere,” Oblon said.
“And the amount of the sentence is justjaw-dropping. People who commit robbery don’t get nineyears. This is not a crime of violence.”
Defense lawyers said the state’s case wasbuilt on circumstantial evidence and did not prove the defendantsworked together, nor did they ask any AOL customers to testify thatthey had received spam.
The convictions could embolden and guide otherprosecutors as they attempt to stop spammers, who have generallyfaced civil lawsuits brought by Internet service provider, reportedexperts Wednesday.
Nicholas Graham, spokesperson for AOL, saidthe company hoped that
Wednesday’s verdict would give other spammerspause.
When Jaynes was charged as Gaven Stubberfield,last December, he was number eight on a list of the world’s top 10spammers, according to
Spamhaus.org, an anti-spam trackingorganization that published the list.
Sentencing for DeGroot and Rutkowski isscheduled for Feb. 3.