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Six months max for Anna virus suspect

The suspected author of the Anna Kournikova virus that cost businesses millions will be tried in a police court, meaning that if guilty, he faces a maximum of six months in jail or a $38,000 fine.

LONDON--The trial date for the man suspected of authoring the infamous Anna Kournikova e-mail worm that infected thousands of PCs across the globe last February has been set for September 12.

Dutch authorities have scheduled the trial for a police court, which means that if found guilty, Jan de Witt of Sneek in the northern province of Friesland will face a maximum of six months in jail.

Twenty-year-old de Witt, who is a self-proclaimed fan of Russian tennis star Kournikova, is charged with spreading information via a computer network with the intention of causing damage.

Early reports speculated that de Witt could face a four-year prison sentence, but with the decision to hold the trial in a police court, the maximum sentence is now either six months imprisonment or a fine of $38,000.

"The suggestion is that the authorities don't feel the crime is serious enough to hear it at a higher court," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for U.K. antivirus company Sophos.

De Witt turned himself into the Dutch police in February after seeing the damage the virus had caused. The Kournikova worm has been labeled the second-largest virus ever to be released, with last year's Love Bug taking first place. Antivirus experts agree the virus cost businesses millions of dollars, overloading computer networks around the world.

see special report: Year of the Worm Masquerading as a picture of the Russian tennis star, the Visual Basic virus tricked victims into double-clicking on it. This automatically forwarded the virus to all the e-mail addresses in a victim's address book. De Witt excused his actions by claiming he created the virus to demonstrate the naivety of computer users and did not intend to cause any harm.

Staff writer Wendy McAuliffe reported from London.