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Plea Rejected in AOL Spam Case

By Erin McClam
The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 21, 2004; 1:58 PM

NEW YORK -- A federal judge refused to accept a guilty plea Tuesday from a former America Online software engineer accused of stealing 92 million e-mail addresses and selling them to spammers.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein of Manhattan federal court said he was not convinced Jason Smathers, 24, had actually committed a crime under new federal "can-spam" legislation that took effect earlier this year.

Smathers, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., planned to enter guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property. But the judge turned him away and scheduled another hearing for January.

The judge, who said he dropped his own AOL membership because he received too much spam, said it was not clear that Smathers had deceived anyone -- a requirement of the new law.

Full story.

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