Rikers Island State Penitentiary, NY
where Raphael Golb
the son of an academic rival,
could be sentenced to 4 years. . .
. . .for certain emails that he sent
to "obtain a benefit"
or perhaps hoping to "annoy,"
by parodying a professor;
AND EMAIL ACCOUNTS HE OPENED,
-INCLUDING MANY HE NEVER USED;
And for a name he invented;
And for perhaps hoping
the professor might not get $650.
[But which the professor got.]
Raphael Golb testified that he opened up email accounts in the names of people who were aggressive against his father. (By the way, since the real "Jonathan Seidel" was not one of these people, it wouldn't make sense for Raphael to use his name in any way; or even to know of him.)
But not exactly in their names: Raphael Golb testified that he was careful to use off-kilter approximations of those names.
Raphael was also careful not to use email addresses that looked real. A witness for the prosecution, the person in charge of all New York University computers system-wide, stated quite emphatically, some two or three times, that it is "extremely easy" for anyone to forge an "nyu.edu" email account. But Raphael testified that he used no professional-appearing account addresses, only general accounts like "Gmail."
I go into more detail on all this in my post::
THE BIG "HOWEVER"
From Raphael Golb's point of view, the names he used were "approximate" enough for legal parody. But the jury ruled that even "approximation" was enough to convict Raphael of several criminal charges, such as for "criminal impersonation" of those people.
Mystifying to me is that many of these "approximate" names were on accounts that Raphael never sent an email from, never even used.
Please keep in mind while you read this, that for each of the several misdemeanors incurred with these names," the judge gave Raphael a 3-month (concurrent) prison sentence in Rikers Island State Penitentiary.
Raphael Golb was not the only witness who said he never used those accounts:
The prosecuting attorney himself pointed out those accounts that Raphael Golb did not ever send emails from.
The prosecuting attorney showed the list of all Raphael's accounts onscreen, asking his prosecution witness for computer fraud if emails had been sent from this account and that. Many of Raphael Golb's accounts, the prosecution witness confirmed no emails had ever been sent from.
Why, then, had Raphael opened these accounts at all? Raphael said he used them as "alternate addresses," used for opening up some other account.
"Alternate address"? Where is the "criminal impersonation" there, if the only "entity" that "reads" those names is the electronic "Auto-Mail Sender" function, to electronically relay a new password? (technical term is "AMS," as I found online- I assume that's how it works. Please correct me if I'm wrong.)
Raphael explained he used names of people who were aggressive against his father, "as a private joke with myself" -he found it amusing, even when no one but himself would ever see it (except "Auto-Mail Sender").
Did the jury really understand this, when they ruled Raphael Golb's unused accounts "criminal""?
It's a scary prospect if someone can confiscate my computer and send me to prison for any joke I make there with myself that is not intended for anyone's else's eyes. This is not terrorism we are talking about, it's you and me.
The District Attorney's office sought up to 4 years for Raphael Golb, upstate in Reikers Island State Penitentiary. And in fact after the sentencing, rather than let Raphael wait for the Appeals office to open in 2 hours, it was ruled that Raphael should be shackled immediately and sent upstate on the very next bus to Rikers Island State Penitentiary. I wonder what horrendous crimes they thought Raphael Golb might have committed in those 2 hours. I like to compare Raphael Golb's sentence to that of a man I once met who also served 4 years in the same State Penitentiary, for the rape of a woman he noticed jogging along the parkway. The rest was parole.
I am an English teacher. All my information and interpretations come from what I witnessed at the trial and read online. I took notes at the trial as best I could, and have looked for as much online as I can; but I do not always understand the nuances in law, or scholarship. If you see errors, please drop me a line.