Judgment in
U.S. v. Robert Tappan Morris


My essay, Examples of Malicious Computer Programs, discusses the computer worm written and released by Robert Tappan Morris, as well as the legal consequences. Morris pleaded "not guilty" and was tried in U.S. District Court in Syracuse, NY. The jury returned a verdict of "guilty" on 22 Jan 1990, after 5½ hours of deliberations. The judge imposed a sentence on 4 May 1990 and, as indicated below, signed the written Judgment on 16 May 1990.

Despite the judge did not issue a formal opinion that discussed the facts and law of this case. Instead, the judge filled out a five-page form (Form AO 245 S) and added a 1½-page Addendum that discussed why he imposed a lesser sentence than recommended by the sentencing guidelines.

The Judgment of the trial court in the case of U.S. v. Robert Tappan Morris was not published and I could not find it in a search on the Internet in June 2002. Because I believe that this historical document should be readily available, I acquired a paper copy from the microfilm record from the U.S. National Archives, scanned it, used optical character recognition software to convert the document to ASCII text, formatted the text in HTML, and posted it on the Internet at http://www.rbs2.com/morris.htm
I set the form language in proportionally spaced font, while the specific text written by the judge for this case is in monospaced font. I have omitted both the defendant's personal data and the form language not applicable to this case (i.e., a box on the form was not checked by the judge).

Ronald B. Standler
14 August 2002

United States District Court

Northern District of New York

U.S. v. Robert Tappan Morris

Case Number 89-CR-139

Defendant's Attorney: Thomas A. Guidoboni, Esq.

THE DEFENDANT was found guilty on Count 1 of the Indictment after a plea of not guilty.

Accordingly, the defendant is adjudged guilty of such count(s), which involve the following offenses:
18 USC, Sec. 1030 (a)(5)   Intentional access of Federal interest computers without authorization thereby preventing authorized access and causing a loss in excess of $1,000.00

The defendant is sentenced as provided in pages 2 through 7 of this Judgment. The sentence is Imposed pursuant to the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984.
The mandatory special assessment is included in the portion of this Judgment that imposes a fine.

Date of Imposition of Sentence: May 4th, 1990

[signed] Howard G. Munson
May 16, 1990

[Page 2 of 7]


The defendant is hereby placed on probation for a term of three years.

While on probation, the defendant shall not commit another Federal, state, or local crime and shall comply with the standard conditions that have been adopted by this court (set forth on the following page). If this Judgment imposes a fine or a restitution obligation, it shall be a condition of probation that the defendant pay any such fine or restitution. The defendant shall comply with the following additional conditions:
  1. Robert Tappan Morris shall perform 400 hours of community service in a manner determined by the Probation Office and approved by the Court.

[Page 3 of 7]


While the defendant is on probation or supervised release pursuant to this Judgment:
  1. The defendant shall not commit another Federal, state or local crime;
  2. the defendant shall not leave the judicial district without the permission of the court or probation officer;
  3. the defendant shall report to the probation officer as directed by the court or probation officer and shall submit a truthful and complete written report within the first five days of each month;
  4. the defendant shall answer truthfully all inquiries by the probation officer and follow the Instructions of the probation officer;
  5. the defendant shall support his or her dependents and meet other family responsibilities;
  6. the defendant shall work regularly at a lawful occupation unless excused by the probation officer for schooling, training, or other acceptable reasons;
  7. the defendant shall notify the probation officer within seventy-two hours of any change in residence or employment;
  8. the defendant shall refrain from excessive use of alcohol and shall not purchase, possess, use, distribute, or administer any narcotic or other controlled substance, or any paraphernalia related to such substances, except as prescribed by a physician;
  9. the defendant shall not frequent places where controlled substances are illegally sold, used, distributed, or administered;
  10. the defendant shall not associate with any persons engaged in criminal activity, and shall not associate with any person convicted of a felony unless granted permission to do so by the probation officer;
  11. the defendant shall permit a probation officer to visit him or her at any time at home or elsewhere and shall permit confiscation of any contraband observed in plain view by the probation officer;
  12. the defendant shall notify the probation officer within seventy-two hours of being arrested or questioned by a law enforcement officer;
  13. the defendant shall not enter into any agreement to act as an informer or a special agent of a law enforcement agency without the permission of the court;
  14. as directed by the probation officer, the defendant shall notify third parties of risks that may be occasioned by the defendant's criminal record or personal history or characteristics, and shall permit the probation officer to make such notifications and to confirm the defendant's compliance with such notification requirement.

These conditions are in addition to any other conditions imposed by this Judgment.

[Page 4 of 7]


The defendant shall pay to the United States the sum of $ 10,050, consisting of a fine of $ 10,000. and a special assessment of $ 50.

These amounts are the totals of the fines and assessments imposed on Individual counts, as follows:
On Count 1 of the Indictment. The Special Assessment of $50. is due immediately and should be made payable to Clerk USDC/NDNY.

This sum shall be paid as follows:
The fine of $10,000. must be paid during the first year of probation in amounts determined by the Probation Officer.

[Page 5 of 7]


It is further Ordered that Robert Tappan Morris pay for the cost of his supervision at a rate of $91.00 per month as directed by the Probation Office.

The Court has determined that formulating an Order of restitution would unduly complicate and prolong the sentencing process.

(See Addendum)

[Page 6 of 7]


The Probation Officer, using the guideline for 2F1.1., as reflected in Appendix A of the Statutory Index of the US Sentencing Commission Guideline Manual, has found the Base Offense Level to be 6. The Total Offense Level to be 14 and the Criminal History Category to be 1. Guideline Range to be 15 to 21 months. The Probation Officer, however, finds that a new sentencing statute permits the court to depart from the Guideline-specified sentence when it finds, "an aggravating or mitigating of a kind or to a degree not adequately taken into consideration by the Sentencing Commission," and recommends a downward departure.

The Court agrees with the Probation Officer that there is no applicable guideline at this time for this specific offense. The court will not accept the scoring of this offense by the Probation Officer under the guideline for "Fraud and Deceit," but will depart for the following reasons:
  1. It is the conclusion of this court that the characteristics of this case were not the type of case, "heartland case," used by the Sentencing Commission in placing 18 USC 1035(a)(5) under the Fraud and Deceit Guideline and that the Commission did not adequately take into consideration the specific characteristics of this type of case in considering alternative guidelines.

  2. Although in and of itself, this offense is an extremely serious offense, by placing it in the Fraud and Deceit guideline in this specific case the total dollar lost overstates the seriousness of the offense.

  3. Because of the lack of similar prosecutions of this type available to the Sentencing Commission, there was not sufficient information to establish any other appropriate guideline when 18 USC 1035(a)(5) was placed in the Fraud and Deceit Category.

    [Page 7 of 7]

  4. Under these circumstances, section 2X5.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines provides that "if there is not a sufficiently analogous guideline, the provisions of 18 USC 3553 (b) shall control." Section 3553 (b) in turn provides that "in the absence of an applicable sentencing guideline, the court shall impose an appropriate sentence, having due regard for the purpose set forth in subsection (a) (2). In the absence of an applicable sentencing guideline in the case of an offense other than a petty offense, the court shall also have due regard for the relationship of the sentence imposed to sentences prescribed by the guidelines applicable to similar offenses and offenders, and to the applicable policy statements of the Sentencing Commission."

dated: May 16, 1990

[signed] Hon. Howard G. Munson
US District Judge
Northern District of New York

[End of Document]

this document is at   http://www.rbs2.com/morris.htm
14 August 2002

read the appellate opinion, which was published at 928 F.2d 504

return to my essay, Examples of Malicious Computer Programs

go to my homepage