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Friday, April 9, 1999 Published at 04:19 GMT 05:19 UK

World: Americas

Melissa case opens

Charged: David Smith leaves court

The man accused of creating the Melissa e-mail virus has appeared in court for the first time.

David Smith, 30, of Aberdeen, New Jersey, who was arrested last week, is charged with interruption of public communications, conspiracy and theft of computer services.

The maximum penalty for the offence is 40 years in prison and a $480,000 fine.

Mr Smith, a former computer programmer, is alleged to have developed the Melissa virus in his apartment.

Melissa clogged e-mail accounts and disrupted computer networks.

The authorities say the virus was named after a topless dancer in Florida.

Mr Smith was freed on $10,000 bail and the case adjourned.

He did not speak to reporters as he left Monmouth County Court, Freehold, NJ.

But his lawyer, Edward Borden Jnr, questioned whether the virus was as destructive as authorities allege.

He said: "Whoever authored the Melissa virus probably is probably more akin to a graffiti artist than an international cyber terrorist."

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