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Melissa suspect hears charges

The man accused of creating and disseminating the Melissa virus has charges formally read to him as he makes his first appearance in a New Jersey court.

The man accused of creating and disseminating the Melissa virus was in a New Jersey court today in connection with the charges now facing him.

David L. Smith spent ten minutes in the courtroom with his new attorney, Edwin F. Borden, to have his charges read to him by Judge John A. Riccardi. Assistant State Attorney Christopher Bubb also was present, according to a spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General's office.

"This was really a formality," said Paul Loriquet, spokesman for the AG. "It's called a 'first appearance.' Arraignment will come after the investigation is finished," and then the case goes to a grand jury.

A grand jury in Trenton will consider whether to indict Smith on charges of interrupting public communication, conspiracy to commit the offense, attempting to commit the offense, theft of computer service, and wrongful access to computer systems.

If the grand jury indicts Smith, the case will go to a jury trial, according to the attorney general's office.

Since his arrest, Smith has changed attorneys and said he will plead not guilty to all of the charges.

The Melissa virus began spreading across the Internet on March 26, using a combination of Microsoft's Word and Outlook programs to send copies of itself to people in a user's email address book.

Antivirus company Network Associates said the virus was inserted into the wild when a person posted it to an alt.sex newsgroup. The infected file was posted from an America Online account called Skyroket, but the owner of that account denied involvement.

AOL traced Melissa information to a New Jersey location and contacted New Jersey law enforcement officials, according to the New Jersey Attorney General's office.

That trace apparently led to Monmouth Internet Corporation, where Smith had an account.

Some amateur sleuthing led to a connection between Smith and a virus writer code-named "VicodenES." Although the New Jersey Attorney General's office initially said there appeared to be no connection, they now have backed off from that stance, Loriquet said.