Jason Smathers, who pleaded guilty to stealing a list of 92 million email addresses from America Online (AOL), has been sentenced to one year and three months in prison. According to reports, Judge Alvin Hellerstein gave Smathers a sentence on the lenient side both because the judge believed that Smathers was genuinely repentant, and because Smathers had been extremely cooperative from the moment the case was brought.
In fact, Jason Smathers had tried to plead guilty earlier on, however the Court rejected his plea as at the time it was not clear to the Court that Smathers had in fact broken the law under which he was being charged, although it was clear that he had broken some law.
In a letter which Smathers wrote, and which U.S. Attorney David Siegal (a classmate of Aunty’s! Way to go, David!) read to the court, Smather’s said “Cyberspace is a new and strange place. I was good at navigating in that frontier and I became an outlaw.”
While AOL has said that Smather’s crime cost them an estimated $400,000, Judge Hellerstein stated that the amount seemed subjective.
The far greater damage, in my estimation, is that there is still a list of 92 million AOL email addresses, belonging to 30 million AOLcustomers, being circulated among and used by spammers. The real damage is that being done to AOL’s customers.
In an interesting and related note, Judge Hellerstein said that he stopped using his own AOL account back in December because ..wait for it …he was getting too much spam.