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Litigation Team Achieves Landmark First Amendment Victory

09/17/2008

In a rare rehearing and reversal of an earlier decision of the Virginia Supreme Court in the same case, LeClairRyan attorneys Tom Wolf and Joe Rainsbury prevailed on First Amendment grounds in overturning a white collar criminal conviction.

After being sentenced to nine years in prison, under Virginia's anti-spam statute, for sending anonymous commercial email, Jeremy Jaynes hired Wolf to handle his appeal. Wolf and Rainsbury asserted several grounds for reversal, including that the statute is unconstitutional because it unnecessarily criminalizes the sending of anonymous non-commercial email. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, and so did the Virginia Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision on February 29, 2008. The court then granted a petition to rehear the First Amendment argument. On September 12, 2008, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously reversed its earlier ruling and invalidated the statute under which Jaynes was convicted. The court held that Virginia's anti-spam statute violates the First Amendment because it regulates the content of speech and is broader than necessary to achieve the compelling state interest of stopping anonymous commercial spam. As a result, Jaynes will not have to serve his nine year sentence.

The opinion is available by clicking here.

An article on the matter, published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, can be accessed by clicking here.