AOL Thief Can’t Plead Guilty, Says Judge

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Earlier this week we told you that the former AOL employee who stole the email addresses of 92 million AOL users, and then sold them to a spammer for $100,000, was due in Federal court and was going to plead “guilty” to charges that he violated CAN-SPAM. It was anticipated that Jerry Smathers would face up to two years in prison, and a large fine.

Well, things have not gone quite the way that the prosecution expected.


The judge refused to accept the plea.

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AOL Thief Can’t Plead Guilty, Says Judge

Yes, that’s right – this guy was ready to plead guilty – “Yes Judge, I did it”, and the judge said “Not so fast…I won’t let you do that.”

The reason, you see, is that while it is clear that Smathers did something wrong…very wrong…his misdeed did not necessarily violate the terms of CAN-SPAM. Specifically at issue is whether the resulting spam was “deceptive” as defined by CAN-SPAM.

Now, his actions definitely violated other laws, and he has also been charged under those laws (and we suspect that the prosecutor may amend their complaint to expand it, as well). So all is not lost.
In addition, the Judge has instructed attorneys for both sides to submit briefs clarifying their positions by January 12th, and has set a hearing for a bit more than two weeks later, on January 28th, at which time he will decide whether to accept the guilty plea.


But it just goes to show you: the only thing sure about the law is that nothing is sure.

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AOL Thief Can’t Plead Guilty, Says Judge

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