Alex Knapp has an interesting point:

It’s viscerally satisfying, sure, but 20 years for spamming? Seems disproportionate, doesn’t it?

Of course, “20 years” is actually much less than that by the time deals are cut, “good time” is awarded, and so forth. Plus, there’s the probability of parole. But even so, how does one calculate the appropriate punishment for the theft of people’s time and computer resources? Is it worth a minute in jail for each unwanted “horsey porn” message? Probably. A 365-day year is 525,600 minutes. Twenty years would be 10,512,000 minutes (not factoring in leap years). According to the story,

Between July 11 and Aug. 11, more than 100,000 complaints on spam messages linked to the two men were reported, Kilgore said. On at least three days, more than 10,000 messages were transmitted.

I’m guessing 20 years is pretty light.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    I assume your tongue is firmly planted in your cheek?

  2. James Joyner says:

    Not really. Twenty years is the statutory maximum, which can be used as a hammer to get plea bargains at a lower level. And it would only take a few such cases to work as a deterrent.

    Something has to be done to stop these people. My accounts on Hotmail and Yahoo, for example, are virtually unusable because of these morons sending out blanket computer-generated messages–so it’s not even a matter of being judicious in giving out one’s address. This is a case where millions upon millions of relatively minor, nuisance crimes become a major problem.

  3. Zygote says:

    I would rather see the punishment have more of a cash penalty and less prison time. Then throw in one of those “And you can’t use a computer on the Internet for the next five years” like they do for some of these hackers.
    Makes them pay, deprives them of their ability to do it any more and saves the taxpayer’s money for keeping real criminals behind bars.

  4. James Joyner says:

    That’s fine, too, as long as the amount is enough to deter. For a lucrative enterprise like spamming, that would be pretty high.

  5. Paul says:


    So spammers should get more jail time than murders? If you say so.

  6. James Joyner says:


    Murder is a single event, usually tied to a specific grievance with a specific individual, often in a momentary rage. And it often carries a death sentence.

    Spamming is a deliberate enterprise aimed at millions of people and performed over and again. Its impact is much more widespread. No one says sending a single message to single person is equivalent to murder. Again, I’m saying one minute in jail per instance. Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

  7. Meezer says:

    They just found three bodies in a basement about thirty minutes from my house. Three young teens. The guy had killed a teenage boy some years ago. But not twenty years ago. He’s been out for awhile, you see, and what is curdling eveyone’s blood around here is that no one knows where he’s been or *what he’s been doing* between the time he was released and the time he showed up in Hammond.

    So I get Paul’s point. It’s not that 20 years is too much for a prolific spammer. It’s that a John Gasey type got a lot less.

  8. CGHill says:

    The deterrent effect of executing a murderer is, I submit, essentially nil, except to the one executed.

    The deterrent effect of executing a spammer is, I suspect, rather substantial.

    So lock up the killers and crucify the spammers, and we’ve done the Right Thing all around.

  9. Paul says:

    Yeah, we didn’t need that 8th amendment anyway.