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Man Gets 6 Years for Software Piracy 321

smooth wombat writes "In what prosecutors are calling 'the ultimate case', a Florida man has been sentenced to six years in prison for selling illegal copies of computer programs. From the article: 'Danny Ferrer, of Lakeland, Fla., pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy and copyright infringement charges after an FBI investigation of his Web site, BuysUSA.com. Ferrer also was ordered to pay more than $4.1 million in restitution to software makers Adobe Systems Inc., Autodesk, and Macromedia Inc.' The judge ordered that items he bought with the money, including airplanes, a Lamborghini and other cars, be sold off to pay for the restitution."
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Man Gets 6 Years for Software Piracy

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  • by JackBuckley ( 696547 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:35PM (#15979766) Homepage
    He should've just wiped his hard drive, and presto! no evidence. Oh, wait...
    • by whois_drek ( 829212 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:51PM (#15979919)
      You know, I'm going to invent a formula for getting modded higher. It'll be something along the lines of:

      1. Read popular story
      2. Read new story
      3. Make some humorously ironic comment on the current story based on newly-gained group knowledge from previous story.
      4. Add optional Soviet Russia joke, Overlord welcome, or "Oh, wait..." sentence fragment at end.
      5. Profit!!!

      So that formula is my invention. Please sign the following NDA with prior-invention clause below...
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by nizo ( 81281 ) *
        Sadly humorous mods don't raise your Slashdot karma. Jokes can however raise your real-life karma, which is much more important! Though you have to keep in mind that the negative mods slam down your Slashdot karma, so if you aren't funny, well, your real-life karma may suffer too. Is this risk really worth it?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:58PM (#15979988)
        1. Read popular story
        2. Read new story
        3. Read humorously ironic comment on the current story based on newly-gained group knowledge from previous story with added optional Soviet Russia joke, Overlord welcome, or "Oh, wait..." sentence fragment at end.
        4. Respond with underpant gnomes formula list with optional "???" step.
        5. ???
        6. Profit!!!

        Patent infringed! You'll never catch me! I'm anonymous! HAHAH!
      • by Harker ( 96598 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @05:19PM (#15981829)
        1. Read popular story
        2. Read new story
        3. Make some humorously ironic comment on the current story based on newly-gained group knowledge from previous story.
        4. Add optional Soviet Russia joke, Overlord welcome, or "Oh, wait..." sentence fragment at end.
        5. Profit!!!


        You left a step out, if you plan to profit.

        5. Patent the idea
        6. Sue anybody who tries to use it.
        7. Profit!!!

        H.
      • I don't know if this scammer was also a spammer, or if he relied on legitimate advertising, but he was shut down in October 2005, so apparently he's not the one I'm getting most of my software-sales spam from. (Maybe they can go bust that guy....)

        ...

        (See, there are other ways to karma-whore besides making standard jokes about in Soviet Russia, our new %s overlords ..Profit! from You :-)

  • Wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:36PM (#15979773)
    I can understand the steep financial penalty, but 6 years seems awfully harsh for a crime where no one was physically harmed.
    • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Burlap ( 615181 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:37PM (#15979795)
      I dissagree. In the VAST majority of fraud cases the fine is peanuts compaired to what was actually taken, he can serve his 6 years and still come out a rich man.
      • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Funny)

        by lixee ( 863589 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:54PM (#15979952)
        Correction: Rich analy-raped man!
      • he can serve his 6 years and still come out a rich man.

        I'm not so sure about that. He has to pay $4.1 million, and they are talking about liquidating his assets to collect on it. Granted, he could have stashed a bunch away somewhere that noone knows about. The article doesn't say how much he made selling the software. It mentions that it could have cost the companies more than $20 million, but that doesn't tell you much about what he actually brought in (selling a $100 program for $20, then making $4.1mil "
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Gonarat ( 177568 )

          Unless he has assets hidden away that the Government can't find or touch, he can say goodbye to what he has under RICO. As it is, they are selling off his assets to pay the judgement, but I'm sure anything that is left will be taken by the Government. We are not talking about someone who lived in his Mom's basement and traded software on the P2P networks -- we are talking someone who made enough to get Ferraris and boats and who knows what else.

        • Granted, he could have stashed a bunch away somewhere that noone knows about.

          First dibs on searching his parent's yard with a metal detector!

        • If he had a good financial adviser he could have stashed away a lot of his possessions in trusts, in those cases if setup properly it would be very difficult to take that away from him, since they would actually belong to the trust, not him, and the lawsuit is against him, not the trust.

          Though based on the fact that they've apparently already seized some of his belongings he apparently wasn't that smart (unless of course they seized them and they WERE owned by the trust, in which case the trust could sue
      • In this case, he has to pay out 4.1 million, including the liquidation of his assets including planes, car, etc.

        In the end, he might still have something left, but would it be worth the 6 years in the slammer?

        I just hope this doesn't set a precedent for non-profitable infringements such as music/software downloads, or download sampling (download, and then either erase or buy).
    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:39PM (#15979812) Homepage Journal

      I can understand the steep financial penalty, but 6 years seems awfully harsh for a crime where no one was physically harmed.

      I'm certain the victims of Michael Milken and the Enron brass see things differently.

      dear, we've got alpo or ken-l-ration for dinner tonight

    • by DaHat ( 247651 )
      Sounds fair... lets see how you feel after I break into your computer and/or house and clean out your wallet, piggy bank and bank account.

      To make everything kosher though... I'll be sure not to break anything or cause any other 'physical harm.'
    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

      by legoburner ( 702695 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:39PM (#15979821) Homepage Journal
      Ferrer bought numerous airplanes, a fighter-jet simulator, a Lamborghini, a Hummer and other luxury vehicles with his profits.


      Judging by the amount he got from this, he was not exactly small fry. Who knows what lengths he went to protecting an illicit business of that size. Certainly a sizeable chunk of change was diverted from normal streams and a fine and a slap on the wrist for him would probably not be too much discouragement for other people in similar situations who are watching his case.
      • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) *

        Judging by the amount he got from this, he was not exactly small fry. Who knows what lengths he went to protecting an illicit business of that size ..

        From this list: numerous airplanes, a fighter-jet simulator, a Lamborghini, a Hummer and other luxury vehicles he was clearly not a stealthy individual. That's a pretty ostentatious list of items and I would be inclined to think the US Treasury Department would have noticed this first. Florida officials may have had him confused with a drug lord or pro

    • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Funny)

      by 955301 ( 209856 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:41PM (#15979832) Journal

      I don't know, seeing a fat balding italian guy [theledger.com] in a Lamborghini hurts my eyes...
      • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

        by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:46PM (#15979882)
        The damage must be severe, that's a Hummer, not a Lamborghini!
        • by 955301 ( 209856 )

          Also note that he isn't in it which is another hint that this isn't the car I'm talking about.
      • by geekoid ( 135745 )
        that the real crime.
        I am sure Lamborghini has a clause that say only good lokoing people onder 35 with a full head of hair are allowed to keep the clause. Of couse the clause is waived if in the passenger seat there is a young slim woman with huge breasts.

        Ciao
    • by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:49PM (#15979907)
      I can understand the steep financial penalty, but 6 years seems awfully harsh for a crime where no one was physically harmed.

      By that definition, the Enron board, the WorldCom board and all others who cause purely financial damages should be given light sentences.

      Noble ideals aside, in a monetized society, money does become essential: Without it, you don't get to eat, don't get health insurance, lose your home, etc.

      This guy made enough he could buy sportscars, planes, the works. Even if you just look at the $4.1m restitution, that's a lot of salaries Adobe, Macromedia and Autodesk could have paid. It's easy to dismiss it as "Oh well, they're big companies, no harm, no foul." but it becomes much more of an issue when they cut the job of a guy whose health insurance got his daughter treatment for cancer.

      So, yes, there's no easy direct link to physical harm caused. But the trickle down effect, just like the Enron and Worldcom guys wiping out people's retirements, may well be far more dramatic overall than a single assault. Given that you can't track down every indirect result, all you can do is look at the quantity of money, get a feel for the effects the fraudulent reappropriation of that likely had, and then accept that increasing dollar amounts can be translated in to just as increasing "likelihood" of physical harm.

      Is say physical assualt bad? Absolutely. And whilst worse for one person, I'm not convinced the overall suffering is actually worse than say ten guys facing the gnawing fear of layoffs, ten wives dealing with losing their homes they poured their souls in to, ten kids having to deal with daddy suddenly being unemployed and having to move away from friends and ten families living with the risk of no medical insurance.
      • by shark72 ( 702619 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @02:39PM (#15980329)

        "This guy made enough he could buy sportscars, planes, the works. Even if you just look at the $4.1m restitution, that's a lot of salaries Adobe, Macromedia and Autodesk could have paid. It's easy to dismiss it as "Oh well, they're big companies, no harm, no foul." but it becomes much more of an issue when they cut the job of a guy whose health insurance got his daughter treatment for cancer."

        Very well put.

        A common Slashdot response to the piracy issue is "the person wouldn't have bought the legitimate copy anyway." In this case, the guy was selling copies of $649 software for $99. This is roughly comparable to the discount that allofmp3.com offers on music, and many people defend their allofmp3.com use because they cannot afford to pay $1 / track. Just like allofmp3.com, this fellow was able to sell $649 software for $99 because he did not need to worry about paying the rightsholders. Unfortunately, lots of people would disagree with you about actual harm to Adobe, et al.

        I suspect that if this were a story about music piracy, the guys writing "They're big companies, no harm, no foul" would be the ones with the 5, Insightful ratings, where you'd be marked down as a troll and likely accused of astroturfing.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Lamborghini employees have families too...
      • by toad3k ( 882007 )
        My question to you is: What dollar amount equates to a single first degree murder? 10 thousand? 1 million? 50 million? a billion?

        4.1 million dollars can do alot of good and prevent alot of bad. Does this guy deserve to die for it?
        • The guy stole from people, spending his ill-gotten gains to give himself a life of luxury that included multiple airplanes, a Hummer, a Lambourgini, and other luxuries which law-abiding citizens like the rest of us will probably never have. I work an honest job and have to get by with just a single five-year old Audi and no airplane at all...

          The value of all the stuff he has purchased from his crimes has since depreciated. There is no way he will be able to make full restitution for the damage he has done
    • He harmed the folks who worked on the software and weren't paid. This guy made enough money to buy a Lamborghini and other cars, and multiple airplanes, for crying out loud. That's millions. Frankly, the sentence seems kind of low considering how much money he made that should have gone to the software developers who actually did the work.
      • by shark72 ( 702619 )

        "He harmed the folks who worked on the software and weren't paid. This guy made enough money to buy a Lamborghini and other cars, and multiple airplanes, for crying out loud. That's millions. Frankly, the sentence seems kind of low considering how much money he made that should have gone to the software developers who actually did the work."

        A thought experiment here: the guys at allofmp3.com likely sell more than 100,000 downloads per month, so they've probably made their first million. They are selling

      • You emphasize mutliple airplanes that that must be the shiznit. As long as we're not talking abiout the most state of the art stuff in existence or some military fighter jet, planes aren't as expensive as a lot of people think. Brand new ones (which few people buy) can be had for $60k or so and you can find used small planes for $15k (Cessna 150's, Piper Tomahawks, Ercoupes, Aeroncas, etc). For the price of that 1 Laborghini he could have had a whole fleet of planes ;).
    • by osgeek ( 239988 )
      Keep in mind that operations like his are responsible for sending us all a lot of spam for "cheap software".

      Killing is too good for spammers.
    • I think he richly deserved 6 years or more because odds are he was responsible for much of the software spams in my inbox.

    • "but 6 years seems awfully harsh for a crime where no one was physically harmed."

      Anyone who agrees with this should stop and consider the fact that this scumbag was undoubtably also a spammer. And as a spammer, he's probably responsible for a huge number of zombie machines and all the other stuff that's crapping up the Internet. Death sentence, anyone?
  • Good! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by boatofcar ( 884925 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:36PM (#15979777)
    It's one thing downloading software illegally online, but charging others for it brings things down to a whole new level, whether it be Office or the NES famiclone knockoffs.
    • by LilGuy ( 150110 )
      Is it a whole different ballgame from a company stealing another's software, slapping a new name on it, and selling it for an arm and a leg?
    • Re:Good! (Score:5, Funny)

      by grammar fascist ( 239789 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:43PM (#15979852) Homepage
      I especially don't feel sorry for him if he's the type that sends out those !!!DISCOUNT SOFFTWARE!!! spams. Those alone ought to be worth a couple of years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by megaditto ( 982598 )
      What do you think of this analogy:

      Downloading pirated copies is like taking a picture of a prostitue in flagrante delicto without paying extra.
      Selling pirated copies is like pimping the prostitutes, then taking away all their money (sex slavery in effect)?

      Of course, if you have no intention to buy the product in the first place, then downloading warez just to check them out is more like sneaking a peek at the said prostitute engagins some other john.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:36PM (#15979781)
    He was charging suckers for this pirate software and not even providing the courtesy of an nfo.

    Good riddance.
  • Does this mean... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) *

    Does this mean I'm getting less spam from him? I'm still getting a lot which offer s1gnificant disc0unts on s0ftware

    Bugs me it took long enough to take this guy out for him to buy all that stuff. Clearly the BSA or whatever industry watchdog isn't terribly vigilant, unless it comes to a knock on your company door, wishing to audit all your software licences and installations, while this potlicker was operating within the USA long enough to amass a fortune.

  • I don't understand (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Durrill ( 908003 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:37PM (#15979797)
    Why couldn't he just operate his business outside the country? If he was making millions, he could have easily ran his business from any corner of the planet.
    • If he was that smart, he would not be selling bootleg copies in the first place.

      It just goes to prove crime does not pay. if you cant get away with it

  • archve.org link (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yahyamf ( 751776 ) * on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:38PM (#15979801)
    Archve.org [archive.org] link before the site was taken over by the FBI

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mreynozo ( 994136 )
      Have you seen the site AFTER [buysusa.com] it was taken over by the FBI? Looks like they could use a web designer or two. *shudder*
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Mattintosh ( 758112 )
        Things I thought of when I clicked that link:
        - "Oh god it burns!" (red background = bad)
        - "'This site permanently shut down' - yeah right. I wonder how much the domain will go for at auction..."
        - "Please, please, please don't be goatse..."
        - "Why is there a Sun logo in the favicon?"
    • From TFL (Link):

      To prevent unauthorized distribution this product requires Telephone activation within 30 days of installation. You MUST activate the software while at your computer as the activation request number will change. We will provide you with the telephone number to activate the software. Please have your invoce number handy before calling. This activation technology has been developed by Adobe to prevent piracy.

      That is both gutsy and sneaky. It's not surprising that, in this click on spam

    • From his Terms of Service:

      You understand that once the seal is broken on software products we will not take them back and No refund will be issued, as we have no guarantee that it or they have been removed from your computer. We will however promptly exchange defective products. This is the same policy that all software vendors have in common. You cannot buy software at a retail store and then expect a refund once you have opened it and installed it on your computer. This would be considered software piracy

  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jhembruff ( 996103 ) <jhembruff@@@gmail...com> on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:39PM (#15979818) Homepage
    This is the kind of thing that we should be cracking down on, the commercial pirates, not teenagers and old ladies who download a song or two.

    This guy is driving exotic cars and ripping off people at both sides, the companies who actually create the stuff, and the unsuspecting comsumer (read: idiot) who paid for this stuff thinking he was getting a good deal, and winds up getting screwed (not that you can really sympathize with anyone dumb enough to fall for this, but I guess greed overcomes common sense).
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Ohhhh, this website. Yeah I'm familar with it. This is were my company ordered all of our copies of Microsoft Office, Windows XP Pro and 2003 Server for our 15 worldwide offices with over 150,000 workstations. Is this a problem?
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday August 25, 2006 @02:01PM (#15980005) Homepage

      This is the kind of thing that we should be cracking down on, the commercial pirates, not teenagers and old ladies who download a song or two.

      Well, yeah. This is what copyright law was actually intended to do-- stop publishers from making money by undercutting the people who invested their own time and money to bring something to market. The other stuff is just an abuse of the law.

    • This guy is driving exotic cars


      Damn him for driving his exotic cars!!
  • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:44PM (#15979854) Journal

    Now there's one business model that certainly could have benefited from picking FOSS.

    Hey, here's an idea: maybe we should push this as counter-FUD:

    Man sentenced to six years for picking proprietary software
    Intrinsic risks of "poison pill" licenses overlooked by many

    It's just a thought.

    --MarkusQ

  • So the guy was selling commercial software without a license, obviously doing so for profit, obviously none of the money went to the creators of the software.

    I think he got what he deserved, he was clearly stealing.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      He was clearly infringinging on copyright. It's not called stealing for a reason.
      Yes, he should have been penelized, but I think the penelty is wrong, expensive, and pointless.

      I think making him do weekend service during a six year period would be better for society, less cost to taxpayers, and leave a bed in prison for someone who physically harmed another.

      Still fine him and sell all his stuff, and it should go on his record.
  • Breaking news... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mayhem178 ( 920970 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @01:55PM (#15979960)
    Man thrown into prison for breaking the law. Stay tuned for more developments.
  • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Friday August 25, 2006 @02:05PM (#15980052) Homepage Journal
    The judge ordered that items he bought with the money, including airplanes, a Lamborghini and other cars, be sold off to pay for the restitution.


    I wonder how many adobe acrobat software packages you have to sell to pay for a Lamborghini? I mean seriously, this guy was making piles of money:


    Ferrer's Web site began selling software in 2002 and was shut down by the FBI in October 2005, authorities said. Prosecutors said the illegal sales cost the software companies as much as $20 million, but industry officials say the amount could be higher.


    How exactly were these numbers computed?? This is all going back to the dead horse "but people wouldn't have bought the package if it was too expensive" argument; figuring the losses as each unit sold being a loss is absurd.

    • by Zed2K ( 313037 )
      In this case I think it would be pretty easy to calculate lost sales. Every sale that this guy made was a lost sale. Completely different from just giving it away (or downloading it) for free.
    • This is all going back to the dead horse "but people wouldn't have bought the package if it was too expensive" argument; figuring the losses as each unit sold being a loss is absurd.

      What makes you think he was selling the software for dirt cheap? Maybe he was selling PhotoShop for $20 less than the legit resellers. After all, if you sell PhotoShop for $15, everyone's going to know it's pirated. But at $20 less than next guy, you're going to think it's just a good deal. If somebody's going to pay $479 for

      • by nizo ( 81281 ) *
        Thus spake the article:

        The software looked legitimate to consumers, but was deeply discounted, said John Wolfe, of Business Software Alliance, an industry group.


        In the case you mentioned I would say the amounts they are computing would be accurate, but in this case the price he was selling at was much lower.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I fail to see how 6yrs and $4.1Mill in fines to Adobe, Macromedia, and Autodesk serves the public trust. Yes, he was doing a disservice to corporations, however you don't know how many legitimate users were spawned from his acts. I know, I know, its not about possibilities, only certainties when it comes to the law, right?

    6 yrs for Copyright Infringement? I imagine if you do a comparison of what other crimes will get you six years or less, you'd be baffled at this judgement (I'm lazy, you look it up). Espec
  • ..he could have downed a bottle of vodka, climbed into his Lamborghini, mowed down an innocent civilian and had his sentence reduced by four years.

    Piracy is wrong, sure, but when I hear of some poor kid getting killed by a drunk driver who only gets a two year jail sentence, I'm certainly not going to give a toss about big fat Adobe crying into their corporate coffers...

    Screw anyone that values money over human life :-(

  • and pushing your products in exorbitant rates through unspoken cartel practice ?

    RIAA, that is you.
  • by jdc180 ( 125863 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @02:25PM (#15980203)
    I wonder just what this guy was smoking when he did this. Did he honestly believe he could hide behind this UA?

    7a: You are not permitted to duplicate or illegally distribute any product purchased from Buysusa. You agree to abide by the End User License Agreement contained within those products. You assume full responsibility for complying with all copyright laws. All products offered by Buysusa are fully compliant with sec. 117 of the US copyright laws. Buysusa reserves the right to refuse any customer for any reason. You understand that in order for Buysusa to make you a copy (OEM) of any software, you acknowledge that you are the legal owner of this same software, and are looking to just make a new copy (OEM) for archival (backup) purposes only. You also agree to destroy all copies of the software in the event it is ever no longer voluntarily in your possession. You understand that only the licensed owner (with a valid serial number, where applicable) of the various software found on Buysusa may use the services located here. You also acknowledge that the software you have was obtained legally and that you have the legal right to request this backup (oem) copy to be made. If you obtained your version though any other means, including any pirated versions, or if you do not already legally own the same version of the software requested, then you may not use this service. you also agree to hold Buysusa harmless for any damages that may occur for your failure to follow the U.S. Copyright and other laws as they pertain to the backup (OEM software) you are requesting. When you purchase any backup (oem) copy of software through Buysusa, you agree to assume full liability in the event your actions are deemed illegal. Buysusa does not condone software piracy and has every intention of complying with the laws pertaining to the duplication of software. By placing an order for software, you declare and warrant that you are provided all material on an "AS IS" basis, and Buysusa makes no representation or warranties of any kind. All title and intellectual property rights remain those of the respective content owner and any intellectual property protected by laws and treaties, without grant or rights to use, and not to copy or print. Any such documentation, serial number, activation services or material that is accompanying any software or document is provided by Buysusa only as documentation or to ease installation in the event your originals are lost, with no basis of value. The laws of the State of Florida will govern this agreement.
    • Now we have something to point to when people ask "What's wrong with software licenses?".

      I almost wish he had gotten off due to this agreement; that would have really driven the point home. Licenses are just another way to illustrate the core of capitalism: Try to get away with whatever you can, however you can.

  • by MyDixieWrecked ( 548719 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @02:45PM (#15980374) Homepage Journal
    http://www.polksheriff.org/cgi-bin/i080914?book=20 01020912 [polksheriff.org]

    that appears to be him... complete with mugshot and everything.
  • I think I remember someone asking about his site too. I did a reverse phone number lookup and found that his phone number was a resedience in the north end of Lakeland - less than 5 miles from my house. At that point I knew he was crooked, and told the person to stay away from the website.

    Makes me feel a lot better about that advice now.

    I wonder if he knew the guy I used to sit next to here at work - who was featured on Dateline, in Ft Myers a few months ago? You might remember him - "Generic White Male"
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      why does the address make it not legit? Id it a neighbor ghood where spammers hang out? Peple offering free viagra on the corners? Little old ladies begging for help to transfer millions of money left by there dead husbands?
  • What is it about Florida and con artists, spammers, religious freaks (i.e. Kent Hovind), and other shady operations anyway? Is it just me or does Florida seems to have more than its fair share of these things?

  • I have absolutely no remorse for people who sell pirated software for money, although it would be nicer if child molestors got at least this amount of jail time too.

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