I'm American, so I speak from experience. The US legal system allows punitive damages. Eric Rosol didn't have to actually go to jail - that was the fair part of the sentence. But US verdicts with insane monetary awards are not unusual. There's the infamous "McDonald's coffee" case which eventually got settled out of court for a never disclosed amount after a jury awarded what almost everybody in the US considered an unreasonable and probably insane amount of money in punitive damages. Jammie Thomas, the last person you'd ever want to fight the RIAA, has gotten a series of shocking judgements against her, far in excess of any real damage that was done by her. I served on a jury once that awarded punitive damages and they're meant to send a lesson to the guilty party and others (this part is key) that there are very real financial costs to certain actions. In this case, the message is clear that people should not do DOS activities or they too may be facing ruinous financial penalties. I haven't followed this case at all, so for all I know like Jammie Thomas, Rosol may be his own worst enemy and perhaps his demeanor in court led to this outcome. Juries really don't like arrogant defendants who insist that they did nothing wrong when the jury feels otherwise. I can tell you from experience that the vast majority of jurors are non-techies and some are actually tech hostile. These kinds of people also get easily swayed by prosecutor arguments that some great evil just happened that must be prevented in the future because they don't really understand what happened. Juries also sometimes get this subgroup of people (roughly 10% of the population by my estimation) who see the entire world in black and white and are obsessed with punishing rule breakers as they see them. These are the people who want draconian punishments for trivial offenses (ie. they'd support the death penalty for people who let a parking meter expire as "That will teach them not do that again!"). Sometimes on juries they are adamant that the "evil doer" has to get a very harsh sentence and if the other jurors really don't care, want to go home, and agree at least that the defendant really is guilty, the other jurors will just agree to large punitive damages so they can get on with their lives. It's difficult to get punitive damages reduced and there's no incentive in the US system for juries to really find a fair verdict. The system just wants them to all agree on the verdict and if 11 people give in to 1 stubborn crazy person, the US system accepts this as the cost for how the system works. The prevailing dogma that gets drilled into all law students and the American public in general is that the US jury system is the greatest of all possible systems and is the cornerstone of our democracy, so nobody on the legal side dares to question whether it really works as it is supposed to or not.