Accused "Melissa" creator appears in court
April 8, 1999
FREEHOLD, N.J. (CNN) -- The man suspected of creating the "Melissa" e-mail virus made his first appearance in New Jersey State Superior Court Thursday.
Dressed in a conservative blue suit, David Smith received instructions from Judge John Ricciardi who advised the defendant of the court proceedings that lay ahead.
Smith, 30, who lives in Aberdeen, N.J., quietly answered all of Ricciardi's questions with a polite 'yes, sir.' As he left the court, Smith refused to answer reporters' questions and left in his attorney's car.
The lawyer, Edward Borden, a former county prosecutor and assistant U.S. attorney, said his client "is a bright young man who is very upset and affected profoundly by the charges."
Borden said state and federal statutes currently on the books are not intended to cover this type of thing.
According to New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Christopher Bubb, the next step is for prosecutors to present their evidence before a state grand jury.
Smith has been charged on five felony counts of computer theft, unlawful computer access, illegal interruption of public communication and conspiracy that could result in prison terms totaling 40 years and fines amounting to nearly a half-million dollars.
In addition, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cleary, says that since the virus affected interstate commerce, "federal charges are a possibility... but we need to consult with the state Attorney General's office and the FBI before filing."
Smith was arrested one week ago at his brother's home in Eatontown after a weeklong investigation by the New Jersey State Police. He was released on $100,000 bail the following morning from the Monmouth County Jail.
Smith was fired from a subcontractor of AT&T Labs in Florham Park following his arrest.
"CGS Computer Associates was notified that Mr. Smith's services were no longer required. Mr. Smith worked on installing software and fixing internal computer problems, but did not affect customers in any way," said AT&T spokesman Rich Blasi.
The virus, distributed March 26, jammed e-mail systems around the globe. When recipients opened a message, the virus replicated itself, sending messages to the first 50 people in the recipient's address list.
The e-mail would say "Important Message From..." and then a name of someone familiar. When opened, the message would continue, "Here's the important document you asked for. Don't show anyone else."
When opened, the recipient would receive a list of pornographic Web sites, plus the virus that would infect the next document the computer user might open.
Smith was traced through his America Online account in a joint investigation between New Jersey State Police and the FBI, according to New Jersey Attorney General Peter Vernerio. AOL told CNN it cooperated with the investigation but would not disclose any details.
Stopping the next Melissa
Federal Bureau of Investigation
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