Jeremy Jaynes earned the title of one of the “world's top 10 spammers in 2003” by sending out up to 10 million spam emails a day according to authorities. Charged under the States’ anti-spamming legislation , Jaynes was sentenced to 9 years in prison - the first anti-spamming felony conviction in the United States.
In response, Jaynes claimed the anti-spamming law violated his U.S. Constitution rights, with specific reference to the first amendment and interstate commerce clause. In a narrow 4-3 decision, the Virgina Supreme Court affirmed Jaynes’ conviction and dismissed his infringement claims.
The Associated Press reports:
"This is a historic victory in the fight against online crime," state Attorney General Bob McDonnell said in a written statement. "Spam not only clogs e-mail inboxes and destroys productivity; it also defrauds citizens and threatens the online revolution that is so critical to Virginia's economic prosperity."
Justice Elizabeth Lacy wrote in a dissent that the law is "unconstitutionally overbroad on its face because it prohibits the anonymous transmission of all unsolicited bulk e-mail including those containing political, religious or other speech protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution."
Jaynes allegedly used aliases and false Internet addresses to bombard Web users with junk e-mails peddling sham products and services. The court's majority said misleading commercial speech is not entitled to First Amendment protection.
"Unfortunately, the state that gave birth to the First Amendment has, with this ruling, diminished that freedom for all of us," Jaynes' lawyer, Thomas M. Wolf, said in a written statement. "As three justices pointed out in dissent, the majority's decision will have far reaching consequences. The statute criminalizes sending bulk anonymous e-mail, even for the purpose of petitioning the government or promoting religion."
- Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto