Prison Sentence: Life Without the Web
By Christopher Smart
July 14, 1997: A Utah prison inmate has been banned for life from computers after allegedly going on-line to send complimentary, if off-color, e-mail to female rock star Tori Amos.
The inmate, Michael Patrick Moore, says he is not guilty of surfing the web or e-mailing the rock goddess. Further, the inmate argues there is no proof to link him to the suspect electronic communication.
Moore says he is being treated unfairly. He contends that since computers can be found in virtually all buildings at the Utah State Prison, that he is being denied church services, as well as dental and medical services, among other things.
Corrections officials deny that Moore has been banned from religious and medical services but say the inmate has lost his job and other privileges that involve the use of computers and is not allowed to be in the vicinity of computers.
The inmate worked with computers at the prison and wrote programs for them, including those at Utah Correctional Industries (UCI), where he worked. Moore is known as a model inmate who is very intelligent and good with computers, officials say.
The inmate, who is serving two sentences of five-years-to-life for the 1982 murders of two men at Log Haven restaurant in Millcreek Canyon, has filed a formal grievance with the administration of the Utah Department of Corrections.
In the document, obtained by City Weekly, Moore argues that he was falsely accused of setting up a web page to defraud Internet users of money and set up secret bank accounts.
A full investigation yielded no proof of the allegations, according to Moore's grievance. However, when it was discovered that Tori Amos had received e-mail from the prison, Moore became a suspect because, said one source, Moore is the only one believed to be smart enough to get on the web.
Utah prison inmates have been banned from surfing the net for some time now, since inmate Rubin Ross established a web page to attract unsuspecting women, corrections officials said. The web is perfect for inmates to set up all sorts of scams, prison officials say.
But Moore says he had no access to the web. "The informants' stories concerning me were not only fabricated, they were physically impossible from a technical standpoint. Several months before, Department of Corrections had done a security audit of inmate access through computers at UCI, firewalling out Internet and e-mail ..." Moore stated.
A source, who wished to remain unnamed, said inmates apparently accessed the web through terminals of prison staffers who left computers unguarded. One inmate really wanted to communicate with Tori Amos. "He apparently just went bananas," the source said.
Beyond the fact that he's innocent of e-mailing Amos, Moore says the punishment a lifetime ban from computers is too harsh. "I've tried everything to deal with this: I've written to the department. I've written to Investigations ... I might understand it if the restrictions against me were simply temporary security restrictions. However, these are broad sanctions with lifetime imposition and, in practicality, seem punitive ..."
And Moore continues to insist that he is banned from LDS Church services. "I was specifically banned from LDS Church services in the Oquirrh Chapel. I had to forfeit my 12-year participation LDS Family Home Evening. I was specifically prohibited from LDS History and Institute studies."
Moore goes again before the Utah Board of Pardons in 2002, some 20 years after the murders of Jordan Rassmussen and Buddy Booth at Log Haven. Interestingly, the Rassmussen family has forgiven Moore. The inmate has apologized for the killings and keeps in communication with the family. In the past, Moore sent them any money he earned at his prison job.
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