News Flash: A Net Jones Won't Get You off the Hook

SAN FRANCISCO (02/11/2000) - The Net may have spawned a New Economy, but it's shown less success with New Excuses. Last month, the lawyer for a teenager accused of slinging online threats argued that the youth had a Net addiction.

The novel argument went that virtual threats in a virtual world aren't worth squat. But even the plaintiff couldn't stomach that line of defense. Yesterday, he pleaded guilty to the threats in a Denver courtroom.

Miami lawyer Ellis Rubin had claimed that too much time on the Net had left Michael Ian Campbell fuzzy on the difference between real life and cyber life.

So when Campbell e-mailed a Columbine High School student that he would finish what gunmen had started at the school, it really wasn't his fault. It was Internet intoxication. Get it? No? Seems it didn't work for Rubin either.

According to, he told U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham that he was unaware of any legal defense that could help his client win.

Columbine student Erin Walton, who received the threat, told the Rocky Mountain News that she and her family were disappointed to learn that Campbell wouldn't stand trial. "I was excited that he was going to go to trial, and now after all he's put our family through he's just pleading guilty and it's just a bunch of crap," she said.

Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm agreed. Noting that Rubin had also pitched a failed "TV intoxication" for a client in the 1970s, Grimm observed that "[s]o many years later, it seems apparent that it's Rubin, not his clients, who suffers from acute media intoxication."

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