New Jersey judge sentences hacker for spreading computer virus

Posted: April 15, 2011

A computer hacker who left his wife for a fictitious online lover wept uncontrollably as he told a federal judge in Camden that he wanted his life back.

That life is forever gone, the judge told Bruce Raisley, 48, who was sentenced Friday to two years in prison for spreading a virus worldwide that shut down websites posting his affair through raunchy e-mails and embarrassing photos.

"I was wrong for putting that thing out there," Raisley said between sobs during a rambling and sometimes incoherent apology. "I'm sorry. I didn't see any other choice."

U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler called a five-minute recess to allow Raisley, a former computer programmer, to compose himself. Earlier, the judge's strong remarks had indicated that Raisley would leave the building with an imminent prison sentence.

Raisley's actions were not just vengeful, but an attack on the First Amendment rights of online publishers, Kugler said. The prison sentence is to be followed by three years of supervision. Kugler also ordered $90,386 in restitution to those who filed claims.

"A message does need to be sent that we cannot tolerate this type of activity," Kugler said, calling Raisley's life a "sad existence."

The story began years ago, when Raisley associated with a vigilante group organized by Xavier Von Erck of Portland, Ore.

Von Erck was founder of Perverted Justice, an organization that once collaborated with Dateline NBC on the television newsmagazine's controversial "To Catch a Predator."

When Von Erck launched Perverted Justice, he and others posed as minors online to attract pedophiles whom they identified on a website. Raisley reportedly participated in Internet chat rooms. The group boasts that hundreds have been arrested as a result of its work.

Initially, Raisley and Von Erck respected each other. Then Raisley questioned Von Erck's techniques. He also accused Perverted Justice of using a picture of his young son to lure predators. Allegations were investigated but never substantiated by the FBI in 2005. Von Erck has said he never used Raisley's son as bait.

Raisley began identifying the group's anonymous volunteers, and made violent and disturbing threats against them, authorities said.

In 2005, Von Erck posed online as a woman named Holly and began an Internet relationship with Raisley, then living in Arkansas with his wife and son.

Raisley and "Holly" exchanged e-mails, which included the compromising photos Raisley agreed to send at Holly's request.

Raisley fell in love.

Within months, he told his wife he was leaving her. He went to the airport in Little Rock to meet Holly for the first time in person.

Von Erck sent a photographer who took pictures of Raisley, flowers in hand, waiting for a woman who didn't exist. The images immediately were posted on the Internet, along with transcripts of the exchanges with Holly.

Raisley's embarrassment grew in 2006 when Radar magazine published an article that questioned tactics used by Perverted Justice. Rolling Stone ran a similar story the next year. Both included Raisley's humiliation and were republished on numerous websites, including that of the Rick A. Ross Institute of New Jersey, which studies controversial groups and movements. The case was tried in New Jersey in part because of the damage claimed by the Ross Institute.

Raisley initially tried to get past the incident. He moved to Monaca, near Pittsburgh.

In 2007, using his computer knowledge, Raisley created a virus, known as a botnet, that attacked computers remotely and brought down sites that had published his story.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Erez Liebermann said Friday at Raisley's sentencing that the virus did more than $100,000 in damage and spread quickly through Europe, including Slovenia, infecting more than 100,000 computers.

Lieberman requested a two-year prison sentence.

Assistant Public Defender John Yauch requested probation, saying Raisley, who had never previously been in trouble with the law, had suffered enough. His wife filed for divorce; he has no contact with his son; he lost his home and lives in a trailer with his mother in Kentucky, Yauch said.

Raisley, he said, is "savvy and sophisticated" with computers.

"Outside of that role, he's a very simple person who has a lot of social inadequacies," Yauch said. "He's lost everything. A jail sentence probably pales to anything Mr. Raisley has inflicted on himself."

Contact staff writer Barbara Boyer at 856-779-3838 or

comments powered by Disqus