A federal jury convicted a former University of California, Irvine student of a civil rights violation Tuesday for sending threatening e-mail to 59 Asian students, the first conviction for hate mail sent in cyberspace.
The conviction will have national impact because it establishes legal standards for conduct on the Internet, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gennaco.
“It’s drawing a line in cyberspace and saying if you cross that line and threaten people with their lives that a jury of your peers is not going to tolerate it,” Gennaco said.
Richard Machado, 21, had testified during the six-day trial in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana that he sent the e-mail in 1996 as a joke and did not intend to intimidate anyone.
In his messages, which he signed “Asian Hater,” Machado threatened to hunt down and kill the students. Under cross-examination, Machado admitted that he blamed his own poor grades on Asian students who he felt raised the grading curve.
Deputy Federal Defender Sylvia Torres-Guillen declined to discuss the jury’s decision. Judge Alicemarie Stotler scheduled sentencing for Friday.