Eighth Circuit affirms conviction in Best Buy e-mail extortion case

Defendant Ray was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota for extortion, and was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for sending e-mail messages to Best Buy threatening to exploit a breach in its computer security. He appealed his conviction to the Eighth Circuit, arguing, among other things, that the evidence presented by the government was insufficient to show that Ray sent the messages.

The court affirmed the conviction, holding that the evidence supported the verdict. In reaching this conclusion, the court noted that Ray had admitted using his computer to log onto the Internet several times a day, and that three of the e-mail messages sent to Best Buy were traced to the IP address he was using at the very time the extortion messages were sent. Other evidence supported the conclusion that Ray was responsible for the messages.

One of Ray’s further arguments was that the prosecutor improperly argued criminal propensity in her closing argument by pointing out that Ray acquired domain names to which he had no legitimate interest after being notified that such conduct was improper. Without determining whether the prosecutor erred in making this argument, the court concluded that such a comment “was not so offensive that it deprived Ray of a fair trial.”

U.S. v. Ray, — F.3d —, 2005 WL 3110595 (8th Cir., Nov. 22, 2005).