The Spam Diaries

News and musings about the fight against spam.
 by Edward Falk

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Word from the Soloway sentencing hearing

Robert Soloway's sentencing hearing has begun, with the hearing already gone to two days and a third day scheduled for next week. It's unusual for a sentencing hearing to go on for more than a single day, and they're still not finished.

The government's sentencing recommendations and Soloway's response can be found at Spamsuite.

In a nutshell, the government lays out what Soloway did (spamming, header forgery, fraud, tax evasion, etc.) They have so many victims it would take weeks for them to all testify. That Soloway has never paid a penny in the judgements against him won by Microsoft and Robert Braver. That Soloway bragged that the law couldn't touch him and none of the plaintiffs would ever see a cent.

The government asks for nine years in prison, three years probation, complete forfeiture of everything Soloway ever made from spamming, 624 hours of community service, and that Soloway be barred from the internet until his sentence is complete.

Soloway's response — or more precisely, his laywer's response — is a more interesting read. Paraphrased, it says:
  • They admit that Soloway was a spammer, but say in essence "hey, it's just a little spam".
  • They say he only spammed for charity, and if some non-charities took him up on his offer, well, that's not his fault.
  • He never spammed for himself, so he obviously didn't make any money from spamming.
  • The commercial email kit which he sold received more thanks than complaints.
  • Those people who said they didn't get the refunds he promised were just a misunderstanding, and it wasn't all that many anyway.
  • He meant to file his taxes, and was filling out the forms when he was arrested.
  • Spamming wasn't even against the law until 2004 so who cares that he was spamming since 1999.
  • Soloway wasn't really forging the email because the only forgery was putting the recipients own name in the "From" line, and once you opened the email you could see who it was really from.
  • All those customers who ultimately got blacklisted by their own ISPs brought it on themselves; they should have read the instructions more carefully.
  • It's not Soloway's fault that some ISPs have anti-spam policies.
  • Dark Mailer isn't spam software; don't believe what Wikipedia says about it.
  • Don't call them "zombies", call them "proxies".
  • You can't prove those servers really sent 120 million emails.
  • Soloway doesn't have any hidden assets.
  • Soloway was framed by other spammers using his business name.
  • Only a few of the complaints mentioned actual monetary loss and most of them don't provide any proof.
  • Soloway denies that he deliberately increased the amount of spam sent to people who asked to be removed.
  • Spam filters are cheap.
  • Soloway didn't harvest any email addresses [he bought them fair and square?].
  • Don't listen to Robert Braver, he's sued more than 240 people for spamming.
  • Ignore Braver's and Microsoft's lawsuits; they were default judgements.
  • Soloway never claimed the email list was opt-in.
  • At least he didn't send any porn.
  • It's not fraud because there was only a 1% complaint rate.
  • All those people who received the spam should be forced to prove their losses.
  • Soloway only made $400,000 in those four years of spamming he's charged with, so the total losses can't possibly be more than $400,000.
  • Putting someone's name in the "From" field isn't identity theft [I'm inclined to agree with this one - ef]
  • This is Soloway's first brush with the criminal justice system [ignoring all his brushes with the civil system, and the times he fled jurisdiction on both California and Oregon], so the court should go easy on him.
  • It's not his fault, he has Tourette Syndrome. He won't be able to get his meds in jail.
  • He offered to cooperate with law enforcement after he was arrested.
  • He's certainly learned his lesson now, yessiree. You can be sure he won't do it again.
  • Most of the people responsible for the Enron scandal got shorter sentences than the government is asking for here; it's not fair. Other spammers got shorter sentences.
  • And hey, it was just a little spam.
Well, that pretty much sums up the defense's case.

Various spam-fighters have been asked to testify at the sentencing hearing, but they're being sequestered before speaking so they don't have much to report outside of their own testimony. Apparently Soloway's mommy is there, scowling at everybody.

Other press on the story:
  • Soloway Case Reveals Big Business Behind Spam — discusses spam botmaster Adam Sweaney's testimony of how he sold botnet access to Soloway, how the cost of getting into the spam business has shut out all but the big-time spammers, how much spam costs the ISP industry, and how one Soloway customer lost his internet access after using Soloway's software and the losses he suffered as a result.
  • KOMO Victims testify at Spam King's sentencing — discusses the challenges the judge will have assessing damages. (Why does the press call every spammer a "Spam King")? Includes link to video with footage of Soloway and interviews with various figures in the story.
  • Computer World: Judge delays 'spam king' sentencing. The third day of testimony in the sentencing hearing has been scheduled for 22 July.
  • Seattle PI: 'Spam King' defied Feds, now faces up to 20 years.

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Blogger tzink said...

This is a very good summary of Soloway's rsponse. Thanks for posting.

12:58 PM  

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