We appreciate loyalty in our readers, but we do expect you to follow certain rules. The Associated Press recently released a story about an imprisoned convicted double-murderer, Steven Jacob, who also happens to be a demanding—and litigious—Electronic Design reader. Jacob won an appeal last month with the Nebraska courts to argue why he should be allowed to continue to receive Electronic Design (as well as PC Week) while serving two consecutive life sentences. Jacob was convicted in 1990 of the shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend Melody Hopper and her boyfriend James Etherton in Lincoln, Neb.
The AP story explained that Jacob sued the Nebraska Department of Corrections and several of its employees because the magazines were not delivered to him. DOC spokesman Steve King told the AP that the magazines were withheld because the address listed Jacob as president of the computer-related business he ran before being imprisoned. The department's policy prohibits inmates from operating a business or receiving mail addressed to them as operators of a business while in prison.
Jacob argues that he was wrongly denied the magazines and that he is owed unspecified damages for having his mail withheld. While the case was initially dismissed in Nebraska's Lancaster County District Court, the appeals court said last month that Jacobs can sue for relief, i.e., access to the magazines, but not for monetary damages.
The AP story quoted King as saying "All he has to do is change the label," suggesting that Jacobs could have received the magazine as a personal rather than business subscription. Hold on a minute here! It's not quite that easy. We're not quite that easy! I think Electronic Design has something to say about this case as well, now that it has been brought to our attention, thanks to the recent court ruling and to CNN.com for contacting us about it (even though we were called a "geek" magazine in the online story!).
First off, as much as we generally like to support our readers, we're taking the side of the Lancaster County court. From our vantage point, Jacob is falsifying his subscription credentials by continuing to represent himself to us as the president of an electronics-related company that he is no longer permitted to operate, as per the policy of the Nebraska DOC.
Second, while Mr. Jacob feels he has the inalienable right to receive Electronic Design while serving time for murder, we reserve our inalienable right to enforce a high standard as to whom we choose to send our magazine. We want to reach readers who are in the position to "specify or authorize the purchase of electronic products," which Mr. Jacob clearly is not.
We pride ourselves on our tight circulation control. Electronic Design is offered free to a highly qualified and select audience that our advertisers can't reach elsewhere (which we know that the other 144,999 of you are!). In fact, we have a strict policy that requires you to fully requalify for the magazine each and every year. This means that if the prison had withheld Electronic Design from Mr. Jacob, he would not have received or been able to return his (falsified) qualification form, and we would have removed him from our subscriber list within the year.
Now that Jacob's unqualified subscription has been called to our attention, why not speed up the removal process? We've informed the "circulation police" (that is, our circulation department) of his false credentials, and we're pulling the plug on his subscription immediately. Hopefully, the case will be thrown out before it gets to court.
I've got to admit, though, it's a little scary canceling the subscription of a convicted murderer, even if he is behind bars for two life sentences. So to the Nebraska judicial system, I offer a deal. Hopefully we're saving you the time and expense of a court case by canceling Mr. Jacob's subscription posthaste. In exchange, please use extra care to avoid any security lapses. I don't need any convicted murderers looking for me!