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[ISN] NASCAR Fan Faces Prison Time for E-mails



http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/APWires/tech/D7QEV1881.html

By MARK PRATT
Associated Press Writer
April 16, 2003

A NASCAR fan faces up to a year in prison for flooding Fox
Entertainment with more than a half-million e-mails because he was
angry the network aired a Boston Red Sox game instead of an auto race.

Michael Melo of Billerica has agreed to plead guilty to a federal
misdemeanor charge of damage to a protected computer system, his
attorney said Wednesday.

The action forced the network to shut down part of its Web site.

Melo designed a program that repeatedly sent the same six e-mails to
Fox Entertainment Group Inc. in Los Angeles over a few days in late
April and early May 2001. The messages were sent through the company's
Boston-area affiliate, according to the federal complaint."He was just
very upset that the Red Sox would pre-empt NASCAR, so he decided to
send these messages to express his views," said Melo's lawyer, Andrew
Good.

Fox received more than 530,000 e-mails from Melo. Fearing a hacker was
attacking its computer system, the company shut down a portion of its
Web site, costing Fox $36,000, according to federal prosecutors.

Also, by taking a portion of its Web site down, Fox Entertainment was
unable to communicate via computer with WFXT-TV 25 in suburban Boston
for several hours, and left the local affiliate unable to receive
viewer e-mail, prosecutors said.

The federal complaint did not specify the exact content of the
e-mails.

Fox Entertainment spokesman Scott Grogin declined comment.

The charge carries a maximum of one year in prison. Melo, who works in
the computer industry and has no prior criminal record, will ask for
probation, Good said."There was no intention to cause any of this
damage and the government isn't claiming he did," Good said. "It
happened, but it was produced by machines running wild. He's sorry it
happened, obviously."A message left on an answering machine for a
Michael Melo in Billerica was not immediately returned on Wednesday
evening.

No date has been set for his plea hearing and sentencing.



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