BOSTON (AP) – A NASCAR fan faces up to a year in prison for flooding Fox Entertainment with more than a half-million e-mails because he was angry the network aired a Boston Red Sox game instead of an auto race.

Michael Melo of Billerica has agreed to plead guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of damage to a protected computer system, his attorney said Wednesday.

The action forced the network to shut down part of its Web site.

Melo designed a program that repeatedly sent the same six e-mails to Fox Entertainment Group Inc. in Los Angeles over a few days in late April and early May 2001. The messages were sent through the company’s Boston-area affiliate, according to the federal complaint.

“He was just very upset that the Red Sox would pre-empt NASCAR, so he decided to send these messages to express his views,” said Melo’s lawyer, Andrew Good.

Fox received more than 530,000 e-mails from Melo. Fearing a hacker was attacking its computer system, the company shut down a portion of its Web site, costing Fox $36,000, according to federal prosecutors.

Also, by taking a portion of its Web site down, Fox Entertainment was unable to communicate via computer with WFXT-TV 25 in suburban Boston for several hours, and left the local affiliate unable to receive viewer e-mail, prosecutors said.

The federal complaint did not specify the exact content of the e-mails.

Fox Entertainment spokesman Scott Grogin declined comment.

The charge carries a maximum of one year in prison. Melo, who works in the computer industry and has no prior criminal record, will ask for probation, Good said.

“There was no intention to cause any of this damage and the government isn’t claiming he did,” Good said. “It happened, but it was produced by machines running wild. He’s sorry it happened, obviously.”

A message left on an answering machine for a Michael Melo in Billerica was not immediately returned on Wednesday evening.

No date has been set for his plea hearing and sentencing.

AP-ES-04-16-03 2021EDT



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