The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Saturday, June 01, 2002

A Day at the Zoo

Eight o'clock in the morning and I'm wondering just why I agreed to this. Spring was wondering the same thing as we struggled to get up and head out with Rob to his trial, as Rob had asked me to be an expert witness (about email) on his behalf.

Rob belongs to the Adrian Empire, a medieval recreation society (somewhat like the SCA) that he's belonged to for the past few years. Rob uses it as stress release; beating up people with swords is apparently very good for stress release and recently Rob became a squire to Sir Trakx.

Sir Trakx has belonged to the Adrian Empire for a dozen years and founded the South Florida chapter (Kingdom of York), helped draft the Imperial Laws (which superceed kingdom law), is currently the Imperial Queen's Champion and has more titles than you can swing a sword at. A very well respected knight in the Adrian Empire, respected except by the current King of York; they have an adversarial relationship.

So it was six or seven months ago when the King, in response to anonymously posting to the Adrian Empire mailing list, sent out an email saying that he could track down any anonymous email sent to the list. Of course, that was taken as a challenge by someone on the list and within a day or two, someone had forged an email from the King to the list and the King suspected Rob as being the perpetrator of the forged email.

The evidance is scant—one bounced email (back to the King) with Rob's email address in the To: line (it was apparently sent as a test some 40 minutes prior to the actual forged email and unfortunately for the perpetrator, it bounced and since it “came” from the King, he received the bounce). The email itself either came from an open relay somewhere in France or an ISP in Boston. And that's it.

So that's how I found myself sitting in court (actually, a conference room at a public library) surrounded by people in Medieval period garb (lots of velvet, ornate jewelry and headbands, tight dresses emphasizing cleavage) taking part in a highly technical case involving forged email.

Quite surreal.

To make matters worse, the King was both plaintiff and judge in the trial and it was obvious that he was openly antagonistic towards Sir Trakx and using Rob as a means to get to him. The whole opening sequence of the trial was a pissing match between the King and Sir Trakx (with the result of Sir Trakx having more charges placed against him by the King).

Over the next hour a highly technical trial went on, trying to explain how SMTP works, with RFC-2821 and RFC-2822, various emails, forged and not, submitted as evidance (silly, yes I know). Sir Trakx tried to call me up as a technical witness but when I failed to produce sufficient certifications proclaiming my credentials (this is a game from crying out loud! In a trial that is setting precedance for the Adrian Empire no less!) he refused to allow my testimony. Of course the King had his credentials as a computer forensic expert on hand (a cheesy looking paper certificate).

In the end, Rob was found guilty of complicity in the forged email; there wasn't enough evidance to convict him of having actually done the act, but since his email address appeared in the To: line (and of course, that can't be forged) he obviously knew about it and failed to bring it up to the King. For his “crime” Rob received what is basically nine months of probation—he can't serve in any political office or in court (to which he said “Yipee!”) and he has to act as a server at the next corronation (which he's volunteered for before so it's nothing new to him).

The politics are so fierce precisely because the stakes are so low.

Dr. Arnold J. Mandell

Then, Sir Trakx was put on trial on two counts: failure to address the King with his proper title and for lying to the King about receiving Official Notification of Rob's actions (Sir Trakx maintained he was never officially notified; the King felt otherwise). By this point Sir Trakx didn't really care and basically told the court, in the manner of William Shatner, to “get a life!” Sir Trakx was involved in the Adrian Empire as a hobby and it had since failed to be fun for him anymore.

He was found guilty on both charges (failing to address the King with his proper title, he was definitely guilty) the second charge the King had absolutely no case but had stacked the deck against Sir Trakx with his pick of jury (technically called judges but they acted as a cross between judges and jury). He was banned from the game for six months, and when he returns, will not have be accorded privledges of his rank for another six months.

The kicker is though, that Sir Trakx has the favor of the Imperial Court and can now get them involved in the situation. Also, the laws the King has passed are illegal according to the Imperial Laws (since the local laws cannot superceed Imperial Law, and any local law has to be sent to the Imperial level for approval and the King has failed to do such). I found that rather amusing.

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