Page 199


Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.

   `both to penalise you for what you have done and for the losses

   caused, and to deter others who might be similarly tempted'.

  

   This was the show trial, not Wandii's case, Pad thought as the court

   officers led him and Gandalf out of the dock, down to the prisoner's

   lift behind the courtroom and into a jail cell.

  

   Less than two weeks after Pad and Gandalf were sentenced, Electron was

   back in the Victorian County Court to discover his own fate.

  

   As he stood in the dock on 3 June 1993 he felt numb, as emotionally

   removed from the scene as Meursault in Camus' L'etranger. He believed

   he was handling the stress pretty well until he experienced tunnel

   vision while watching the judge read his penalty. He perused the room

   but saw neither Phoenix nor Nom.

  

   When Judge Anthony Smith summarised the charges, he seemed to have a

   special interest in count number 13--the Zardoz charge. A few minutes

   into reading the sentence, the judge said, `In my view, a custodial

   sentence is appropriate for each of the offences constituted by the

   12th, 13th and 14th counts'. They were the `knowingly concerned'

   charges, with Phoenix, involving NASA, LLNL and CSIRO. Electron looked

   around the courtroom. People turned back to stare at him. Their eyes

   said, `You are going to prison'.

  

   `I formed the view that a custodial sentence is appropriate in respect

   of each of these offences because of the seriousness of them,' Judge

   Smith noted, `and having regard to the need to demonstrate that the

   community will not tolerate this type of offence.

  

   `Our society today is ... increasingly ... dependent upon the use of

   computer technology. Conduct of the kind in which you engaged poses a

   threat to the usefulness of that technology ... It is incumbent upon

   the courts ... to see to it that the sentences they impose reflect the

   gravity of this kind of criminality.

  

   `On each of Counts 12, 13 and 14, you are convicted and you are

   sentenced to a term of imprisonment of six months ... each ... to be

   concurrent.'

  

   The judge paused, then continued, `And ... I direct, by order, that

   you be released forthwith upon your giving security by recognisance

   ... in the sum of $500 ... You will not be required to serve the terms

   of imprisonment imposed, provided you are of good behaviour for the

   ensuing six months.' He then ordered Electron to complete 300 hours of

   community service, and to submit to psychiatric assessment and

   treatment.

  

   Electron breathed a sigh of relief.

  

   When outlining the mitigating circumstances which led to suspension of

   the jail sentence, Judge Smith described Electron as being addicted to

   using his computer `in much the same way as an alcoholic becomes

   addicted to the bottle'. Boris Kayser had used the analogy in the

   sentencing hearing, perhaps for the

   benefit of the media, but the judge had obviously been swayed by his

   view.

  

   When court adjourned, Electron left the dock and shook hands with his

   lawyers. After three years, he was almost free of his court problems.