A Skeptical Tragedy


“What followed then was what invariably follows in the wake of every tortured consciousness.”

–Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy

I take no joy in writing this.  In fact, I thought long and hard about whether I should.  Whether I should respect the privacy of the individual.  Whether the wider community has a right to know.  In the end, though, it is about a public figure in the skeptical community, and not just any public figure.   It is, in fact, about a luminary.  A shining light.  A beacon that has brought many of us out from the swamps of superstition into the light of rationality and reason.  The man of whom I write is all of that (and I say this without so much of a whiff of irony), and much more.  He started one of the most popular skeptical podcasts out there, a podcast so influential that it has literally changed lives.  He was instrumental in starting an important skeptical blog.  He has even produced a couple of skeptically themed TV pilots.  And yet, he has fallen.  And because he has put himself out there as a public figure, the public should know about that fall.

I speak of Brian Dunning.    Yes, that Brian Dunning, creator of the Skeptoid  podcast, winner of the best science podcast in the Stitcher awards for 2012.  I have listened to every episode of Skeptoid, and it has made a profound impact on my life.  I like, and respect, Brian Dunning, as many of us do.  And yesterday, April 15, 2013, Brian Dunning walked into a federal courtroom in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose) and pled guilty to wire fraud, in violation of Section 1343 of Title 18 of the United States Code.  Yes, wire fraud.  This is, without any doubt, a horrible tragedy for Brian and his family, and for the skeptical community at large.  One of our leaders has shown that he is not the man that many of us hoped that he would be.

This case has been pending for a long time.  Brian was indicted on June 24, 2010.  The docket history available on pacer.gov (publicly available, but you need to sign up for a password and give them a credit card) shows 60 separate docket entries.  There were trial dates, and continuances, and stipulations, and motions, and responses, and much more.  All leading invariably to where we are now, because once the United States Attorney indicts you, you are pretty much done.  The US Attorney, unlike state prosecutors, gets to pick and choose their cases, and they only indict people that they are sure of convicting.  Recently Brian, his lawyers, and the US Attorney worked out a plea agreement, the exact details of which are not publicly available (when I tried to retrieve a copy of the plea agreement from Pacer, I was denied access, although I can pretty much get access to any other document associated with the case).  Even though the plea agreement is not publicly available, other documents are.

On April 15, 2013, two new documents appeared in a Pacer search for Brian’s case (CASE #: 5:10-cr-00494-EJD-1), a superseding information and an arraignment document (click on the links to view the original documents in .pdf format).  The term “information” is a legal term for a charging document that does not have to go through a grand jury.  The superseding information outlines the factual allegations against Brian.

Here is the arraignment document, which shows that Brian pled guilty yesterday.  Click on the image to make it readable.

dunning arraignment jpg



As you can see, Brian appeared in court and pled guilty to count one.  What does that mean, though?  For that, we need to review the superseding information in detail (all the facts described below come directly from the publicly available  information on file in the District Court).

According to the information, the wire fraud involved eBay’s affiliate program.   Ebay developed an affiliate program, which was a means by which eBay worked with third-party marketers to drive internet traffic towards eBay.

I will let the information speak for itself.


3.  Under eBay’s Affiliate Program, it was intended that a third-party affiliate would send visitors to eBay.com from a website associated with an affiliate, and would do so (at least in theory) by suggesting (in some way) that the visitor “click” on the “link” to eBay.com located on the affiliate’s website.  If, within specified time periods, such visitors to eBay.com became new active users, won auctions, or made Buy-it-Now purchases on eBay.com, the affiliate received compensation from eBay.  A “new active user” was defined to include a user who both set up a new eBay.com account and then placed a bid (whether it was a winning bid or not).  For purposes of this Superseding Information, the actions of becoming a new active user, winning an auction, or making a purchase are referred to collectively as “revenue actions.”

4.  The affiliate program defined the rates and amounts of compensation that eBay paid to an affiliate   These rates and amounts of compensation were based on the monthly totals of revenue actions attributable to that affiliate.  For instance, if 1 to 49 of the individuals  the affiliate referred to eBay became new active users within 30 days, eBay paid the affiliate $25.00 per new user.  As another example, if the individuals the affiliate referred to eBay won auctions for items totaling $99.99 in value within seven days, eBay paid the affiliate 50% of the revenue earned by eBay on those transactions.

The Legal Entities.  

The information describes the legal entities and the amount of money involved:

6.  The defendant Brian Dunning (“Dunning”) was an individual who resided in the Central District of California.  Kessler’s Flying Circus (“KFC”) was a partnership that was owned, in part, by Dunning.  Dunning was the sole owner of the company Thunderwood Holdings, Inc., and also did business as BrianDunning.com.  Thunderwood Holdings, together with the company Dunning Enterprise, Inc., did business as KFC.  The non-person entities are referred to collectively as “KFC.”

7.  KFC was a member of the Affiliate Program.  In 2006, KFC received approximately $2,000,000 in compensation from the eBay Affiliate Program in the United States.  Between January and June 2007, KFC earned approximately $3,300,000 in compensation from the eBay Affiliate Program in the United States.  As of approximately June 2007, KFC was the number-two producing account in the Affiliate Program. . . .


The Technology Behind The Scheme

8.  eBay used an automated tracking process in an effort to ensure that affiliates received appropriate compensation.  This tracking process utilized “cookies.”

10.  In the eBay Affiliate Program, when a visitor was referred to eBay.com from an affiliate website, eBay dropped a “cookie” on that user’s computer.  This cookie contained information that was used to identify the Affiliate Program member that had directed that particular user to eBay.com.  This information, which included  “publisher ID,” referring to the affiliate, and/or a “campaign ID,”  referring to a particular program operated by the affilate, is collectively referred to as the “Affiliate ID.”

11.  If and when that user later engaged in revenue action on eBay.com, the Affiliate ID would be transmitted by the user’s computer to eBay.  An automated tracking process performed the analysis to determine whether the revenue action had occurred within the specified time frames.

How the Scheme Worked–Cookie Stuffing.

12.  If a cookie from an affiliate was present on the user’s computer at the time of the revenue action, the affiliate identified by that cookie was credited with the revenue action.  If there was not qualifying cookie on the user’s computer at the time of the revenue action, than no affiliate was credited.

18.  [T]he defendant disseminated on a large number of web pages computer code that, when those web pages were viewed by a computer user, were designed to cause that user’s computer make a request to eBay’s home page merely for the purpose of prompting eBay’s servers to serve up a cookie, which would then be “stuffed” onto the user’s computer.  These cookies contained information that identified an Affiliate ID of KFC.  In such situations, the human user never actually clicked on an eBay advertisement or link on Dunning’s affiliate websites.

19.  [I]n such situations, the computer code prevented eBay’s home page from actually “loading” on the user’s computer screen.  Accordingly, the human user never actually viewed eBay’s home page when an eBay cookie identifying KFC was stuffed onto the user’s computer.  Indeed, the human user never knew that his or her computer had made the request to the website (i.e. eBay.com) that had served up the cookie.   

20.  [T]he defendant provided free applications at two of his websites that users could download and use on their own websites: “ProfileMaps.info,” which showed the physical location of visitor to a MySpace profile, and “WhoLinked.com,” which showed who was linking to a website or blog.  Any visitor to these websites could download either of these applications.  Both applications included code that operated as follows:  when a user visited a website that had installed Profilemaps or Wholinked applications, the code would cause the user unknowingly to receive an eBay and/or CJ cookie with KFC’s Affiliate ID without the user having clicked on an eBay ad or link, without the user knowing that his or her browser had been redirected to the eBay and/or CJ affiliate tracking server and without the user seeing any content of an eBay site.  As a result, KFC would be paid if that user subsequently conducted an eBay revenue action within a certain time frame.


How the money was actually made:

21.  [T]he defendant had the expectation and intention that many of the users whose computers had cookies stuffed on them would thereafter visit eBay and engage in revenue actions.  If these revenue actions were within the time periods specified in the Affiliate Program, KFC would receive compensation from eBay with respect to these events.  The defendant had the expectation and intention that these visits to eBay.com would be of each user’s own accord, and would be separate and apart from any actions taken by the defendant to “drive” those users to eBay.com.

So, according to the superseding information, the wire fraud involved causing cookies to be installed on internet users’ computers without their knowledge.  If, by chance, those users later visited eBay and bought something, then an entity owned by Brian (at least in part) would be treated by eBay as if the entity’s website had driven the customer to eBay by means of a direct referral.  The entity owned (at least in part) by Brian would then get a commission from eBay, as if the entity’s website had actually been responsible for driving the user to eBay.  In reality, the entity’s website would not have driven the customer to eBay, and thus eBay was defrauded.  Thus, wire fraud.

The superseding information charged Brian with wire fraud, occurring between May 2006 and June 2007, and on April 15, 2013, Brian pled guilty to that charge.

Possible sentence and next step in the litigation

It is hard to estimate the actual sentence that Brian is facing, as the terms of the plea agreement are not accessible  on Pacer.gov.  The maximum sentence for a violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 1343 is up to 20 years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Federal Judges, though, use sentencing guidelines to guide their decisions in imposing sentences.  I used the publicly available sentencing guideline calculator in order to figure out what Brian is looking at.  Before I reveal the results, I want to give a few disclaimers: (1) The Plea Agreement may make my calculations incorrect, because the US Attorney may have agreed to a downward departure that I do not know about, because the plea agreement is not publicly available; (2) The Plea Agreement may contain a stipulation that the amount of theft attributable to Brian is less than that stated in the superseding information; (3) I could be mistaken in my factual understanding, and thus inputted information incorrectly into the sentencing calculator.  Additionally, I believe that Brian will be statutorily eligible for a sentence to probation, but I do not see that as a reasonable possibility considering the amount of loss, but you never know.  Maybe Brian has a  really good lawyer and will get probation.

Subject to these caveats, the sentencing calculator indicated that Brian is facing a sentence of 70 to 87 months in prison, or between 5.8 years and 7.25 years.  I believe that he would be eligible for early release after serving 85% of his sentence, with time off for good behavior.

If the US Attorney were to do something like stipulate in the plea agreement that the total loss was $1,000,000, the sentencing range would change to 46-57 months.  Again, perhaps there are stipulated downward departures that could reduce it even more.

Additionally, the arraignment document says that there is an evidentiary hearing regarding loss on August 8, 2013.  Perhaps Brian’s lawyer will attempt to show that the losses to eBay were actually much less than my low-ball assumption of $1,000,000 (it would be nice to have access to the plea agreement, which might provide illumination on this point, but I do  not).  If he could get the loss down to, say $100,000, the sentencing guidelines might go as low as 24-30 months in prison.

Whatever the plea agreement says, and whatever happens at this hearing on August 8, I think it is fair to say that Brian is looking at spending a significant amount of time in a very bad place.

When someone does a podcast like Skeptoid, and they speak into our earbuds once a week, we start to think of them as a friend, even though we do no know them.  I am sure that a good many of us feel that way about Brian.  Many of us have looked up to him, and considered him a beacon of reason.  And yet, here we are.  A hero has fallen.







  • Astro

    This is very unfortunate. I love Skeptoid, have every episode saved, listen to some repeatedly years later, and based my own podcast on his model.

    • Wesley Harding

      I just learnt of this through your podcast, but knew of the ongoing case. I too often go back over the older episodes.

  • IDoubtIt00

    Thank you for doing such a great job with this post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shon.b.mclean Shon Bryr McLean

    I hope this is a late and sad April Fool’s joke…because this is soooo disappointing.

    • http://www.miketheinfidel.com/ MikeTheInfidel

      It’s not. It’s been bubbling behind the scenes for a few years.

  • Steven Bloomfield

    Wow this sucks. Let the ad hominem attacks on his podcast begin! “How can I believe that guy, he’s guilty of wire fraud?”

    • http://twitter.com/Doubting_Tom ArboreTom

      To be entirely fair, that’s really not ad hominem. “This guy was guilty of fraud” is relevant when considering said person’s credibility and believability (see also: Kevin Trudeau). The ad hominem fallacy would be “This guy was guilty of fraud, so what he says about Zeitgeist is wrong.” Dunning’s arguments and facts stand on their own. His credibility, however, is shot.

      • abigskyguy

        I fail to see the distinction ArboreTom. What do you mean by his “credibility is shot” and how would this affect your assessment of his arguments? Seems to me the only way to take it is that you would factor in this mistake when you assess his reasoning (hence, ad hominem)

  • Ryan Jean

    This is truly a sad report, but it’s better to see it addressed directly as you have done rather than engaging in the very same flawed reasoning he has so often punctured as his nay-sayers are sure to do with this news.

  • http://msmith13.wordpress.com/ Mark

    I have my own ignorant, half-baked opinions on this matter, and for now I’ll keep them to myself. But this might be a good time to remember that the value of skepticism, and science in general, is in reliance on evidence and critical thinking, and doesn’t rest on the veracity of any single authority.

  • http://twitter.com/BobColebrook Bob Colebrook

    I am deeply sorry that he got caught.

    • Origami_Isopod

      So you approve of fraud. Good to know.

  • Adam Bourque

    That was a tough read. Thanks for posting it. Good job on the fairness of the post.

    • psycchick

      Where’s Brian’s side of the story, for this to be fair?

      • http://twitter.com/rinetguy Random Internet Guy

        “Fair” doesn’t always mean two (or more) sides have equal weight or standing. Assuming they do is why having to deal with “teach the controversy” is such a waste of time.

        • psycchick

          Apples and oranges. Teach the controversy is a waste of time because their arguments are old and tired and already analyzed.

          Brian’s side of the story has not been stated or analyzed yet. This author was not able to get the court documents.

      • http://twitter.com/SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly

        He’s probably not going to comment, on advice of attorney. For some time. EBay’s civil suit against him was put on pause while the criminal case moved forward. That civil suit will be “unpaused” now, I venture, and Dunning will be told not to comment until attorneys settle that, and also, not until he faces sentencing in the criminal case.

  • mattdocmartin

    I would just say that a tragedy is something that happens out of your control. Wire-fraud is generally not “out of your control’ as you have to willfully do it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tarrkid Rob Tarr

      A tragedy is also a story dealing with the downfall of the main character, often through some character flaw.

    • paul vinet

      n. pl. trag·e·dies
      1. A drama or literary work in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances.
      2. A play, film, television program, or other narrative work that portrays or depicts calamitous events and has an unhappy but meaningful ending.
      3. A disastrous event, especially one involving distressing loss or injury to life: an expedition that ended in tragedy, with all hands lost at sea.
      4. A tragic aspect or element.

      I don’t see anywhere a mention of personal control. In fact I see quite the opposite. Something might not be a tragedy if not brought about by their own flaws or actions.

      No I think the term you are looking for is “my personal opinion.” At least i hope it is, as redefining a word to suit your own quippy high-horse remark about others’ misfortune isn’t exactly the typical way intelligent people go about things.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=660922420 Kitty Mervine

    I think Skeptoid is such quality work, and still used in the school where I worked (and only sub now that I am retired) that I’ll gladly keep up my micropayments. I hope only the best for him and his family.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chipcherry Chip Cherry

    People who are in the crosshairs of skepticism have been talking about these affairs for years when criticizing Brian and Skeptoid. Of course, they were ad hominems, but it makes me consider my intentions when I mention that Sylvia Browne and Kevin Trudeau are also convicted felons. The difference there would be that one must agree that Sylvia and Kevin are trustworthy to enjoy their offerings, whereas Brian would likely be the first to tell you not to trust him and do the research yourself.

    Either way, if I finally ever make it to TAM, Brian may be otherwise occupied.

  • Jeffrey Brite

    I just wanted to say that I could care less about how Brian deals with Ebay. I agree this is fraud, but it a lot like cheating on your taxes. It’s a bad idea, but doesn’t make someone a bad person. If Ebay was some beckon of morality itself, I might draw a different conclusion. I think this is a non issue. Brian, I still think you rock.

    • Martin Wagner

      It is hardly a non-issue. it is a crime. Saying “Well, they’re just a Big Evil Corporation, and so that makes it less bad,” is simply a post hoc rationalization, no different than “Well, they shouldn’t have raped that girl, but if she hadn’t been passed out drunk…”

      • Jeffrey Brite

        Really? tax evasion and wire fraud is the same as rape. I think you lost perspective.

        • Martin Wagner

          And I think you missed the point by a freaking light year. I was giving examples of the kinds of irrational justifications and logic fallacies that people make when offering excuses for bad things people do. Anyone with a room temperature IQ should know better than to think I was saying the specific deeds were the same. I guess we know who’s operating below that threshold.

          • Jeffrey Brite

            I find the community out against Brian for something like this disappointing, I also think I believe reasonable people can disagree. I also find it disappointing that people in our community cannot discuss this without it reducing to personal insults.

      • Jeff

        Thank you MW, for that “reductio ad rapeum”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Rudolph/71804321 Daniel Rudolph

      If I understand the way this scheme works: He wasn’t just stealing from eBay. He was stealing from other affiliates.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wendy.hughes.14 Wendy Hughes

    This was well written, but a sad story. Thank you for the detailed analyses of the court pleadings and explanations of all the variables. I, too, love Skeptoid, and I like Brian. Humans are vulnerable to temptation I guess.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chipcherry Chip Cherry
  • http://twitter.com/Don_Gwinn Don_Gwinn

    A thorough, well-documented, clear and helpful kick right in the gut. I wish you hadn’t had to write that, but I’m glad you did it right.

    I do think of Brian much like a friend, though I only met him briefly once (at the College of Curiosity in St. Louis, where he did a couple of great presentations.) I tend to talk back to the podcast, and I’m a monthly supporter. I hate this very much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.hay.12 Katie Hay

    One question, so he was a partial owner of the KFC thing, was he aware of what was going on and accepting money from the scheme? A guilty plea to me says yes, however I didn’t see it clearly stated that he was indeed profiting from it. I guess he would have since his site was filled with this cookie thing. I’m assuming he made his own web page.

    • psycchick

      A guilty plea says that he wanted to end this for his family’s sake and not drag them through a terrible trial.

      • Samuel Vimes

        Or it means that he knows the jig is up and is pleading guilty in hope of leniency at his sentencing. Seems to me that if familial concern was paramount ,he wouldn’t have gotten himself involved in this scheme ion the first place.

      • http://twitter.com/rinetguy Random Internet Guy

        Is that a fact or conjecture on your part?

    • Skeptical Abyss
      • http://twitter.com/rinetguy Random Internet Guy

        Oh wow. It is really too bad Dunning failed “Talking to Cops 101”: KEEP YOUR TRAP SHUT NO MATTER WHAT. If that document is the real deal, then he is a cooked goose.

      • psycchick

        Where he says “I have too much to loose, I wouldn’t do anything illegal”? Again, from 2007.

    • http://twitter.com/SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly

      He was paying his wife $10K a month. He was paying his mother and mother-in-law each $2,500 a month for “living expenses.” Hellz yes he knew. And, he was learning from the feet of someone even worse: http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2013/04/briandunning-guilty-and-not-sad-day.html

      • http://www.facebook.com/katie.hay.12 Katie Hay

        D: I see…

  • http://twitter.com/SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly

    Question. This is only the criminal side, right? I’ve not looked at the docs yet, but did the plea kill the civil case pending against him, or is that still up?

    Otherwise, no “sad day” from where I sit. The “sad day” was when Dunning started doing this stuff. File this under #DarkSideOfTheInternet; he’s a spammer who did something that’s not just spamming but fraudulent. He’s also someone who has regularly mixed libertarianism in with his version of skepticism, or rather, “skepticism.” Given that his libertarian political leanings are surely connected to why he started cookie stuffing, rather that “sad day,” maybe we could call this “object lesson day.” Off to blog myself.

    • http://www.facebook.com/paul.copeland.7796 Paul Copeland

      As a Libertarian, I take offense to your blatant ad hominem and non-sequitur. If you were to take a half an hour to research even the most basic Libertarian philosophy you would understand why your claim that Brian’s “libertarian political leanings are surely connected” any sort of fraud is completely ignorant. Fraud is against the basic moral principles that most Libertarians follow. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-aggression_principle

      • http://twitter.com/SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly

        Isn’t that what Christians say before a priest and a young boy get caught? More seriously, crimes can be rationalized away, for a variety of reasons. So, take offense away.

      • nilbud

        Nonsense, libertarians are parasites and criminals.

  • Andrew Cooper

    Many thanks for the update. I only discovered that Brian had been prosecuted when I decided to look up his Wikipedia entry last week to find out a bit about his background. There’s no point in speculating about Brian’s actual involvement and motives: he has entered a guilty plea and will, as you say, almost certainly go to prison for a number of years. That it’s a tragedy for his family is without doubt and I’m very sorry to hear this news about someone who, like other posters, I felt I had got to know quite well via his podcasts and Here Be Dragons film which is well worth watching for those who haven’t come across it.

  • Martin Wagner

    While we’re all sad for Brian, it’s very important for skeptics to avoid moral hypocrisy in their response to this news. If Brian did the crime, he needs to do the time. If Kent Hovind deserved prison for tax fraud, Brian deserves it for wire fraud.

    • nilbud

      What crime? Who was the victim?

      • Martin Wagner

        Are the words “wire fraud” too difficult to read and comprehend?

        • nilbud

          A wire was the victim, you putz.

          • Wilson Afonso

            I think it’s quite clear that eBay was the victim. While some things said to be “crimes” are victimless, this is not an example of that.

          • Colin V

            Not only Ebay but other affiliates as other cookies written over.

          • Martin Wagner

            Okay, so you *don’t* actually understand what wire fraud is, nor are you inclined to learn, despite having the entirety of the internet at your fingers.

            Dunning defrauded eBay of over 5 million dollars. It’s in the record, and he pled guilty to it. Though if you want to make the argument that “a wire was the victim,” by all means feel free to contact his legal team and offer them your expert services. I’m sure they’ll be just as impressed as we all are.

  • http://twitter.com/SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly

    Reason three this is no “sad day”?

    In my opinion, Dunning is overrated as a generator of in-depth, independent skeptical thought.

    For example, one of his most “favored” blog posts was “five things you don’t know about your body.”

    Top two items? Did you know you don’t use just 10 percent of your brain?
    Did you know that swallowed gum doesn’t stay in your body 7 years? Wow!

    • http://twitter.com/rothschildmd Mike Rothschild

      You know a lot of people actually believe those things, right?

      • http://twitter.com/rinetguy Random Internet Guy

        A lot of people believe that if they scooped out 90% of their own cranium, they wouldn’t even notice?

        Get outta town!

    • psycchick

      actually, a lot of people don’t know those things. It’s a great introduction to basic skeptical thought.

  • http://twitter.com/iamcuriousblue iamcuriousblue

    Does Dunning by chance have a girlfriend who is forced to wear “flair” as part of her waitressing job? Couldn’t resist that one, as Dunning’s fraud m.o. comes so close to the plot of the movie “Office Space”.

    As is often the case with embezzlement type crimes, he might not have even gotten caught if he’d been a bit less greedy, and planted a smaller number of cookies, generating a smaller flow of cash but drawing less attention. Not that it would have been OK, of course, just a more skilled, subtle commission of crime.

    • psycchick

      Sounds like you don’t know a lot about him or this situation.

      • http://twitter.com/iamcuriousblue iamcuriousblue

        No, and I can’t comment on any aspect of it beyond what’s been reported here. If there’s extenuating circumstances not reported here, I don’t know about them. I will say, though, that if you have a small business and have a surplus of over 3 million dollars over the course of a year, it’s hard to argue you didn’t know where that was coming from or how it’s being generated.

  • Mark Sarpa

    Unlike the other Mark below I don’t keep my ignorant half-baked opinions to myself.
    Just read the post and I really appreciate the way it was written. Y allow the reader to do their own research and form their own opinions.

    That being said I am commenting because Brian has worked for me as a database contractor for over 10 years. He become a friend thought this process and has been outstanding and ethical and a great partner for our company. I would trust Brian with my wife, my house, the keys to my car, and access to my bank account no matter what happens here. I have listened to his stress over this situation over many years I as someone who also runs an affiliate channel I do not believe he did anything wrong.

    In my opinion pleading guilty is his way of ending this for his family and not really an admission of “I did something wrong”. I have no legal training so if you disagree just pass me off as half-baked and ignorant and I still look up to him.

    • psycchick

      I as well know Brian, and would trust him with with those tings as well. Pleading guilty is a way to end it for his family. That his report from the hearing on Monday is not posted here does a great disservice. I respect and admire Brian and send my warmest wishes to his family.

      • Skeptical Abyss

        I would be happy to post “his report from the hearing” at any time. And Brian is certainly free to comment here, although I understand (I think) why he has not done so.

  • psycchick

    It baffles me that you had the wherewithal to start this message by wondering whether or not you should discuss this issue, because he has a family. Why didn’t you listen to that voice inside of your head? Does this have anything, anything at all, to do with Skeptoid? NO.

    If you’re so close with Brian why don’t you call him up or email him and ask him what really happened? The feds have their story on your blog – but you don’t have his side of the story.

    This is pretty cruel, considering his kids are old enough to be online and reading this.

    • Skeptical Abyss

      Psycchick, I do not know where to start.

      1. Why did I publish this? Brian has put himself out as a celebrity in the skeptical community, and has been very successful at it. When you make yourself a celebrity, and when you base your fame on honestly and rationally examining problems, your credibility becomes an issue. Skeptoid often deals with issues of credibility. Frankly, Brian should have made a statement on April 15 about his guilty plea and put it up on his website. The public following he has cultivated deserves to know about something like this.

      2. I am not close to Brian. I do not know where you would get that from in my post.

      3. Cruel? Because his kids could read it? If so, he is the one being cruel to his kids by engaging in the behavior that he pled guilty to. For more on that, see this FBI report: http://www.benedelman.org/affiliate-litigation/dunning-2013-03-04-opp-to-def-motion-to-suppress.pdf#page=14

      • abigskyguy

        Not saying that you should not have written this post but:

        1) Brian didn’t “put himself out there as a celebrity”, you did. I think you should accept responsibility for your own “celebritization” (new word i know) of Brian. Maybe part of your rational for this article is tied up into you propping Brian up on a pedestal of your own making.
        2) Behavior affecting credibility should have some relationship to what the person regularly writes/says. Not sure there is a relationship there e.g.) just read an article from Brian on 3D gun printing. His particular crime doesn’t make me trust his analysis any less (could change if I find out more as to why he committed the fraud).
        3) Not saying the article is cruel, but hopefully we don’t justify our own cruelty by pointing to the behavior of the target i.e.) he deserves it.

        • Skeptical Abyss

          Oy Vey! Brian did not put himself out there as a celebrity? Really? The podcast? The books? The TV pilots? The speaking gigs showing his shows at TAM? Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with climbing up the greasy pole of celebrity, but it was part of an orchestrated plan on Brian’s part. Before this criminal thing, I would have given him major kudos for doing it. I love self-made celebrities who get by on their talent and wit (like Brian).

          • abigskyguy

            Point taken. But my main point was that the majority of any “celebrity” status we give people, like Brian, is of our own making and we should take responsibility for that. He STILL is great at what he does (Podcasts, books, speaking, skepticism, etc.) and he’s made a huge mistake. Now, if his “crime” was that he somehow “faked” his skepticism (i.e. intellectual plagiarism) then I would probably be less inclined to listen to him. WIth his real crime not related (or very, very loosely related to skepticism) I have no problem with continuing to respect and value him in that area.

    • http://twitter.com/SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly

      And, how do you know it has nothing to do with Skeptoid? I have no idea if, or if not, Dunning had some way of doing anything close to similar with PayPal, with ppl who buy his schlock via it.
      And, “family”? Dunning was paying his wife $10K/month out of his ill-gotten gains. Puhleeze.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1028048969 Tony Costello

    Wow. For a group of self-proclaimed skeptics people here seem to make a lot of assumptions and jump to a lot of conclusions without a lot of facts. I particularly take issue with the author’s conjecture about what Dunning’s sentence might be after giving us a long list of what exactly he doesn’t know anything about (and not for a lack of looking). The case was opened in 2007 and he was charged in 2008. I appreciate that he provided for the assumption of innocence until proven, or in this case pleaded, guilty. He however took no such precautions with his musings on Dunning’s punishment or assumptions of what exactly to what he may have pleaded guilty. He bases a guess of 6-7 years on what he himself described as being from an uninformed position. “I take no pleasure in writing this…”, he says. Why make the conjecture then? Did I sense a hint of schadenfreude? Not very skeptical-like in my opinion.

    • http://twitter.com/rothschildmd Mike Rothschild

      Not skeptical at all. A lot of people have abandoned critical thinking. We don’t know why Brian ultimately pleaded guilty, and we certainly have no idea what the outcome will be.

    • Skeptical Abyss

      Tony, the main question that people ask when they hear someone pleaded guilty is “what is the sentence going to be.” That is why I believe it important to try to give an answer to that question, so I calculated the sentencing guidelines as best I could, using available data, and then gave potential areas of error.

      And, if you sensed a hint of schadenfruede, your sense of smell is seriously out of whack. There is none coming from me. None.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1028048969 Tony Costello

        I’ll take your word for it. But if Dunning walked into that court room and volunteered to serve 6-7 years on this charge I’ll eat my hat.

        • Fullerene

          He was sentenced to 15 months.

          Happy now?

      • paul vinet

        I think the author made sure to mention he felt he was shaky on the estimate, so i don’t fault him here, but the estimate I think is likely way off the mark. The reason is because sentencing guidelines aren’t used in plea bargains, because sentences in plea bargains are decided between the two sides out of court. In exchange for saving the state the money and effort of convicting someon through trial, they offer the defendant a much better deal. When something goes to trial, you have no idea how things will end up. Even t most open and shut case can easily end in acquittal. If the government only offered to knock down a sentence by 10-25pct, defendants would say screw it I’ll take my chances in court.

        • Skeptical Abyss

          Sentencing guidelines are a major factor in plea bargaining in federal court. In fact, pretty much the entire exercise is to result in a conviction with sentencing guidelines that get you where you want to come out.

        • Fullerene

          He was sentenced to 15 months.

          Are we good now?

  • shanepbrady

    Looking at the “superseding information” and knowing firsthand how these companies work, how affiliate marketing works, and fraud prevention is done, the facts don’t add up. Brian’s previous comments from 2011 present an entirely more plausible scenario.

    • Skeptical Abyss
      • shanepbrady

        Nah, not really. Dropping cookies for affiliate programs without users knowing is how *every* affiliate program on the internet works. The interview doesn’t disclose much of anything new or interesting, if you’ve been in the business before.

        • http://www.facebook.com/simone.tremblay.35 Simone Tremblay

          Sorry, but that’s wrong. Sure, the user might not know a cookie has been placed on his computer, but in real and legit affiliate marketing, the user has *clicked on a link that lead him/her to eBay*. Dunning placed cookies using an invisible pixel, he wasn’t truly driving traffic to eBay. This scheme is against every affiliate platform’s ToS and is really complete fraud, not to mention he was potentially stealing revenue from legitimate affiliates too by overriding their cookies.

          Btw: I’ve worked in the affiliation marketing industry for years and I earn a living through a site I own that uses this method of marketing. If you understand the technology, it’s obvious Dunning was defrauding eBay. That he claims he didn’t think it was illegal, while admitting (in that FBI interview) that he was exploiting the weaknesses in a “stupid program”, shrieks of cognitive dissonance. Worse, when he was warned by Commission Junction that they caught him and that he was violating their ToS, he briefly stopped… then resumed his cookie stuffing activities but simply *hid it better*. WTF.

          • paul vinet

            I call bluff. Where in affiliate marketing do you speak from? Smile assertions don’t cut it, and making arguments from authority without demonstrating evidence of that authority is empty jibberish. I’ll withhold judgement and let you reply, but just fore warning “trust me I do” isn’t gonna cut it.

        • http://twitter.com/SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly
      • bellerofon

        This is neither an FBI report, as you stated elsewhere in the comment section, nor a report of an FBI interview. What this is, in fact, is a prosecutor’s “sales pitch”, titled “United States’ Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Suppress Evidence”.

        If you read it, it is chock full of opinionated statements like “operator of a multimillion dollar business”, “Mr Dunning’s spacious, expensive home”, “the defendant artfully tries to squeeze into the legal analysis”, references to SWAT dressed FBI special agents as “Darth Vader”(!) and so on.

        It is clearly the prosecutor laying out his case with all the bells and whistles he, she or they can muster. I see very little by way of facts (although lots of references to documents we don’t have) and very much in the realm of opinionated, biased statements.

        I’m certainly not saying there are factual inaccuracies in there, just that it is very much of a stretch to take this particular document as an accurate representation of what actually took place.

        And it is most certainly inaccurate to purport that it is an FBI report or a report of an FBI interview.

        To quote the subject of this discussion: “As always, be skeptical”.

    • http://twitter.com/SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly

      No, his comments from 2011 aren’t that plausible at all. I’ve pretty much debunked them. http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2013/04/briandunning-guilty-and-not-sad-day.html

      • bellerofon

        I think you confuse “debunking” with “ramblings from someone with an obvious axe to grind”.

  • Samuel Vimes

    Tragedy Schmagedy. Sure, it’s a kick in the gut for those who know or have heard of him (I have not), but fuck him – he’s just another a (now self-professed) criminal. The only real tragedy here is the smear he has put on the reputation of the skeptic community.

    • Skeptical Abyss

      It is a tragedy in the traditional sense in the area of literature, i.e. a story where the central figure has some kind of calamitous event happen.

      • http://twitter.com/rinetguy Random Internet Guy

        Some kind of calamitous even that he caused himself?

        Sure, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume his cognitive dissonance allowed him to continue to cash (very large) eBay checks generated by a loophole he consciously exploited.

        You know what? At the end of the day, Gus Gorman was still a criminal.

        • paul vinet

          It’s still by any reasonable interpretation of the word, a tragedy. Please look up the definition. If you condemn anyone that runs afoul of the law once in their life, thats your opinion, but I hope for your sake you think about this long and hard when you hear the religious right making the exact same points to justify things like three strike laws..

    • abigskyguy

      Wow!….”Fuck him – he’s JUST another criminal.” Comments like this actually makes religion sound good. At least they have a concept of forgiveness (after accepting responsibility and consequences). How about “Fuck you Samuel”. I imagine if you posted the worst things you’ve done (which you won’t), you’d appreciate a little compassion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/luke.visocnik Luke Visocnik

    fuuuuuuuuuuuck now we know why we got the podcast for free

    • paul vinet

      …. Because almost all podcasts are free? I dont get it.

      • http://kaweah.com Dan Jensen

        Podcast production involves a variety of expenses. Someone has to pay for them. When Brian D. started his podcast in 2006, he had a reliable source of income wherewith to fund his skeptical activities. When that source ran into legal trouble, he looked to other channels.

        • Paul

          No, I know…

          ..What I was responding to was madmidgitz’s comment that Dunning’s crime provides an explanation as to why Skeptoid has always been free to download.

          I was responding facetiously–All podcasts are free to download. Yes the money for production is paid by someone, usually a combination of listener donations with the podcaster him/herself picking up the difference, but I don’t know of a single instance where a pay wall was put up and free downloads were discontinued to solve the production cost issue.

          Wherever the podcaster gets funds, whether it be from his/her salary or from more creative means, it’s not going to determine whether the podcast is free or not.

          It’d be like saying “Steve Novella works as a neurologist!? Well, I guess we now know why SGU has always been free.” It just struck me as a silly assertion to make, as so much of the vitriol surrounding this issue has been.

          Despite purportedly being skeptical, I keep seeing people attempting to shoe-horn in Dunning’s legal issues with why everyone should dismiss Skeptoid as a podcast. That they sound no better than creationists attempting to discredit evolution by bad mouthing Charles Darwin, does not seem to phase them.

          They dislike Skeptoid, they dislike Brian Dunning for commiting a crime. Therefore the two must be causal, and the justifications are crazy.

          … And I’m talking about commenters from the recent articles on SkepChick, this has been a necropost for a while. However the same careless cognitive errors can be seen from the commenters (check out Socratic Gadfly, his posts are something out of this world lol) here from over a year ago.

  • Wilson Afonso

    It’s worth pointing out that while it is basically true that “[t]he US Attorney, unlike state prosecutors, gets to pick and choose their cases, and they only indict people that they are sure of convicting” this does not mean that they only indict people that *should* be convicted. Someone else pointed out that pleading guilty can be, rather than an admission of wrongful behaviour, just a way of ending years of stress and browbeating from people who have the power to make your life a living hell. There have been many examples recently of disgusting behaviour on the part of prosecutors.

    I’m not saying that this is what is happening. I’m saying we don’t have all the facts, and we essentially have one side of the story (the prosecution’s). I agree that this side does look bad.

  • http://twitter.com/wxrocks Eric Hall

    For those that think this should be the sole thing on which to judge Brian’s character – think about this:

    MLK, Jr. did many wonderful things to help advance equal rights in the US. I don’t think anyone would doubt that. You may or may not be aware he was also a womanizer and cheated on his wife. I don’t think that diminishes his contributions to making the world a better place.

    If Brian knew about this, didn’t know it was wrong at the time, or was unaware – we may never know. But no matter which case it is, you cannot judge a person based on one event – it must be the sum of their character. Some bad things weigh more heavily than others. In this case, I say the good outweighs the bad.

    I hope he keeps up the good work. Not just because I blog there, but because his podcast is a valuable educational tool and makes us all a little smarter.

    • Skeptical Abyss

      I completely agree, but that does not mean that people should not be aware of the situation.

    • Bill Hicks

      Wow. Leave it to a total simp to compare cheating on one’s wife (not a crime) with wire fraud and theft of millions, with plans to propagate the scheme even more. You have to be a special brand of idiot to make this sort of analogy, smearing King in the process.

      • abigskyguy

        So betraying your closest loved ones who trust you multiple times is morally superior to stealing? Hummm….not so sure about that.
        Also, name calling does nothing to promote your argument, only diminishes it.

        • paul vinet

          Lmao seriously is this guy kidding? “it’s waaaaay worse to steal monetarily from a faceless corporation than to betray your family and crush the ones you love.” I can’t believe he managed to type it without realizing how ridiculous it sounds.

          • abigskyguy

            I’m sure Bill that your wife would be way more pissed if you cheated slightly on your taxes than if you were screwing the 15 year old neighbor girl.

      • paul vinet

        wait, is this sarcasm and you actually agree with the post? At first i thought you were actually saying that it’s worse morally to steal from a corporation than to cheat on your wife. But I think now you were just being sarcastic and I fell for it. There’s no way you could have been serious.

        And let me add, just because a widget is cookie stuffing, doesn’t mean 100 percent of the revenue is generated from fraudulent cookies. That’s a huge assumption a bunch of people seem to be making. It’s far more likely that an extra bit of code may have inflated the revenue by say 50 percent of what it would be. That would mean that 66 pct of the “millions of dollars” were earned totally fairly.

    • abigskyguy

      Wow….a little compassion:) Thanks Eric.

    • http://kaweah.com Dan Jensen

      Brian Dunning knew what he was doing. He was covertly scamming eBay out of millions without producing anything himself. He did not do this in a hormone rush after a rock concert or a killer sermon. It was a rational, calculated action that he intended to maintain. This alone does not make him the devil, but in a movement that regularly confronts frauds, his credibility is significantly diminished. I wish him well, but I won’t be donating to his podcast any longer.

      • Eric Hall

        I learned something in the last couple weeks about how scary the federal process really is. First, check out the book “Three Felonies a Day” – it is really insane.

        The other is the process of an FBI interview. Shocking in the modern era these are still not recorded. Hear more about it from Brian himself -http://www.briandunning.com/straight.html

  • Elliot Birch

    I’ve met the guy a few times, nice enough guy… but why is this a tragedy? He shouldn’t have done what he did.

  • Marius vanderlubbe

    Why, oh why, couldn’t it have been Rebecca Watson instead?

    • Martin Wagner

      Because she’s an ethical rationalist, unlike her misogynist 40-year-old virgin harassers. Next stupid question?

      • Paul Coddington

        Well, he certainly got a stupid answer.

  • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

    It really sucks that someone who seemed so dedicated to preventing people from getting screwed by misinformation was personally profiteering from screwing people with misinformation.

    • paul vinet

      yea because the rest of us here have certainly never made any mistakes or harmed someone. Now let’s all go wipe squeeky clean the surface of our glass houses before our next round of stone-throwing begins.

      • Skeptical Abyss

        Paul, there is such a thing as considering the degree of offense.

        • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

          That’s true enough, but what disturbs me most here is that he was taking advantage of eBay’s management because they weren’t being skeptical about whether and how traffic is being driven to their website. Skepticism as a movement is about teaching people to behave skeptically, whereas charlatanism as a profession is about taking advantage of people who don’t behave skeptically. Skeptics and charlatans are supposed to be sworn enemies, not the same people acting in different capacities.

      • abigskyguy

        Ditto Paul:)

      • http://twitter.com/SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly

        Yeah, because my mistakes never included committed nearly $6M of fraud, and not just stealing money from eBay, but all the other affiliates in the program. http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2013/04/briandunning-guilty-and-not-sad-day.html

  • Wesley Harding

    This is very sad to hear. I’ve been following the podcast for the past few years.

  • abigskyguy

    A sociologist should have a field day with this and similar blogs reporting on Mr. Dunning. Questions for study : How does the atheist/skeptic community respond to criminal or other bad behavior in it’s own ranks? Do they make rationalizations to excuse the behavior? Do they accept responsibility for their own credulity in putting people (like Mr. Dunning) on a pedestal (he can do no wrong!)? Have they developed a concept and process of forgiveness? Do they first allow people to express their side of story before making “judgments”? Do they allow fellow skeptics who have accepted responsibility to remain in the community or are they permanently excluded? Do skeptics “take the log out of their own eye first”?
    Seems that based on many of the comments, the skeptic community is generally and certainly no better (and maybe worse) than the religious community in these areas. Maybe we need to work on this if we’re going to provide a sustainable alternative to religion.

    • Tommy Maq

      Do they trust the court system to address these questions?

      Do they consider the credibility of someone who passes judgement on credibility important?

    • Cathal Ó Broin

      This is a very strange post that seems to posit loaded questions and is generally confused. I would hope that sociologists wouldn’t ask loaded questions.

      For example, “Do they accept responsibility for their own credulity in putting people (like Mr. Dunning) on a pedestal (he can do no wrong!)?”, when did any community put Dunning on a pedestal or assume he could do no wrong? I would daresay every community is aware that anyone can commit a crime, including someone who makes some popular podcasts. I’m sure some people thought he was a personal hero, but I would be surprised if many thought he was incapable of crime.

      “Maybe we need to work on this if we’re going to provide a sustainable alternative to religion.”
      It’s not clear what you mean by “on this” exactly. You also seem to confuse skepticism with atheism. Further, you seem to presume there is meant to be an alternative community group to replace religious ones (this isn’t required) and that is atheism and skepticsm. A community of skeptics is not like a religious community, nor can it replace it and nor is it meant to. In the same way that the scientific community isn’t meant to replace religion either. Further, if religion is in the significant minority, atheist communities are also dead because they would be superfluous.

    • Fullerene

      The skeptic community is populated by human beings, in case you haven’t noticed.

      The atheist community has ONE thing in common: a lack of belief in gods. End of story. You can project whatever else you like, if you like being wrong.

  • abigskyguy

    Brian, I don’t know you but if you are reading this, I want to say a few things. As a Secular Humanist, I understand that we are ALL capable of making mistakes ,however big or small. I am disappointed that you made this mistake but I truly believe (maybe hope) that the skeptic community is capable of forgiveness given that you accept responsibility and consequences. As you go through this process, I for one will support you and will welcome you with open arms into any role you choose in the skeptic community. I wish you and your family the very best during this difficult time and hope that find comfort, support and forgiveness throughout from the people that know you best.

    • Tommy Maq

      “Mistakes” are distinct from “willfully choosing wrong.”

  • abigskyguy

    “If it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart”.

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 1918-2008

  • abigskyguy

    Sounds like the Skeptic community needs to make some tough decisions. Are we going to only allow superficially “perfect” people to be leaders in the community (like Popes, Pastors, etc in Christianity) or are we going to responsibly allow room for people’s humanity, flaws and all?
    I, for one, vote for the second option. The first is a setup for disappointment. I’d much rather have “real” people in leadership positions – people who are humble, aware of their strengths and limitations, and understand themselves as imperfectly evolved beings.

    • paul vinet

      Here here

      • paul vinet

        Or is it hear hear? Never really ever written that idiom down.

        • abigskyguy

          I think it may be Hear here or Here Hear. Is there maybe a “hare” in there somewhere?

    • Skeptical Abyss

      Dude–I agree that we don’t need boy scouts to be leaders, but we generally want our leaders to be trustworthy. I don’t think many people would hold much against anyone if they, say, had a possession of ecstasy charge, or even something like a DUI, but fraud on a massive scale? When you make the kinds analyses of credibility that a professional skeptic must? I think that is a bridge too far.

      • abigskyguy

        I think we should trust him less in the area(s) in which he broke that trust…nothing further. I seems you are making casting too wide a net with your credibility argument.

      • Tommy Maq

        ‘zactly. Live by The Code, die by The Code.

        If credibility didn’t matter, Dunning’s credibility wipeout wouldn’t matter.

        But it does, so it did.

    • http://twitter.com/SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly

      $5M plus of fraud is not just a “flaw.”

  • paul vinet

    Just to put in my two cents here, i think most skeptics, being upstanding citizens and all, don’t have any personal experience being on the criminal side of the judicial process. It’s a shitty part of my life, but being a biochemistry major intent on synthesizing “fun” stuff during and for a short time after college, I ran afoul of the law several times in my younger years. On two occasions I was arrested and charged by the state and one time i was arrested and charged federally.

    Sentencing guidelines really don’t mean jack unless a case goes to trial. In a plea agreement, the DA proposes a sentence, which is across the board waaaaaaaaay smaller than the sentencing guidelines, which if agreed to by the defendant goes to the judge to accept or decline. In real life, the DA never proposes a punishment the judge would not accept.

    The exception to the above would be mandatory minimums, but those generally only exist for drug crimes and certain violent crimes,

    I’m my three arrests, I took a plea deal all three times, and other than the time I spent awaiting arraignment, I didn’t see the inside of a jail cell, more less a prison cell.

    Basically, if you are white and upper middle class(I’m not saying this is fair, just that it is), with no prior record or at least no prior offenses for the same crime, you are unlikely to receive any hard time. I was lucky in that my first arrest was San Diego county, second was orange county, and third was federal, so to each court it seemed like my first offense.

    Brian is a middle aged white father with I imagine no prior record, who has accepted a plea deal for an innocuous white collar crime. I applaud the level of research put into this article, but specifically the estimation of sentencing is WAY off the mark.

    • Skeptical Abyss

      We shall see. The federal sentencing guidelines calculations I did took into consideration the standard “downward departure” for admitting responsibility that the feds often offer. This appears to be pretty big-time wire fraud, and I would be pretty shocked if Brian does not serve a very long sentence (at least to me, but then again, one day in County would be a long time for me).

      • paul vinet

        Well it’s been a full month now and there’s been no announcement suspending skeptoid for the duration of his prison sentence. If he wanted to, a lawyer can request personal time to get your affairs in order prior to beginning a stint, but most judges won’t allow months for this.

        This isn’t definitive proof, but I’m telling you man I have a lot of personal experience with this. No crime that’s a felony is going to not sound serious. I was charged for production of illegal substances (I don’t wanna disclose what drug it was, but il just say it was hard and can be administered in several ways) with intent to sell, use of cellular phone to commit conspiracy to transport illegal substance (or something along thoselines I forget specific wording), burglary, trespassing, tampering with a vehicle. These all, at least to everyone around me at the time, like pretty serious crimes. But still, I was willing to do ANYTHING to avoid prison or jail time. Each time I managed to squeak through. One count of wire fraud honestly doesn’t sound terribly serious in the broad scope of federal crimes. It’s white collar and he has zero prior record.

        I will reassert my judgement of the facts. I will be astounded if he receives any hard time whatsoever.

        • Tommy Maq

          I think your analysis is correct. Lack of prior record means a lot. Lack of violence means a lot. Lack of a personal victim (I mean, shit, it’s eBay) means a lot.

      • paul vinet

        The other thing is that he didn’t commit wire fraud. He committed a type of fraud called cookie stuffing, which federal statute has no specific felony to describe. They picked wire fraud likely because it was the closest fit. But the sentencing guidelines you looked at are for wire fraud. Actual wire fraud. Not cookie stuffing into web browsers. The Internet has led to a slew of new ways to commit fraud, maybe a lot of different crimes are described as “wire fraud” for the official paperwork. Does that mean all such crimes, regardless how severe or banal, should be sentenced the same way an old school typical wire fraud was sentenced?

        Just another reason why, flying spaghetti monster willing, skeptoid will continue for a long long time. Ramen.

        • Tommy Maq

          “Wire” means “electronic” and is defined quite easily: did he use a piece of electronics to carry it out?

  • abigskyguy

    He’s made a huge mistake for which he will hopefully accept responsibility and reasonable consequences. But here’s the thing – he’s STILL great at what he does (Podcasts, books, speaking, skepticism, etc.). WIth his crime not related (or very, very loosely related to skepticism) I have no problem with continuing to respect and value him in this area. Now, if his “crime” was that he somehow “faked” his skepticism (i.e. intellectual plagiarism), that would be a different story. I (we?) are still a lot better off with than without Brian in our lives.

    • http://twitter.com/SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly

      I seriously doubt he’ll accept such responsibility, nice as it would be.

      • paul vinet

        How the fuck would you know? What kind of expertise do you have to make this judgement? What experience dealing with Brian Dunning, or any such person whom you are not closely related to, has provided you the knowledge to arrive at such a conclusion? Or did you read it in your tea leaf and confirm with a deck of tarot cards? Yaknow in your other comments you annoyed me with your kick-him-when-no-actually-because-he’s-down opportunism, but this is comment really betrays vacuous space or utter credulity as your source for your comments.

        Asinine comment… You sound like the fucking Christian claiming that because he knows someone is an atheist that it is logical to conclude that this someone is also a beast devoid of morality. How totally asinine…

        And please, go ahead and further make an ass of yourself by asserting that you CAN logically conclude what you’ve said because you’ve read one press release about one situation in which he accepted a plea bargain for writing one Internet cookie that was illegal. The jump from this one piece of information to what you wrote above isn’t fallacious at all.

        Having this kind of bullshit banter from someone furthering their pet project of pseudo intellectual condescension by carrying the moniker of skeptic does a disservice to the movement as a whole. Before typing unjustified bullshit in the future, ask yourself if you are standing on any solid foundation…

        • Tommy Maq

          “How the fuck would you know? ”

          Because Dunning had evaded responsibility for other mistakes, obviously.

          Nice rage – guess we know who got his ox gored, huh?

  • http://twitter.com/Didgya Didgya

    He is guilty by law, he admitted to it. But before we all look down on him let us at least think about how the justice system works. Sometime pleading guilty is the most logical thing to do. I personally have no feelings about him, just a thought.

  • nilbud

    This is such fucking bullshit. You people are slaves with the mentality of serfs. Dunning didn’t do anything except game a flawed system. No one lost any money. What is despicable is how quickly the microbrains like whoever wrote this horseshit and PZ Myers (the rat bastard censorious hypocritical weasel) turn on others.

    • Guest

      I know this is an old thread but I don’t understand how no one lost any money. Looks like eBay paid out money in an effort to drive people to their site.

    • Tommy Maq

      Pretty sure the issue is the moral code Brian promoted, and how he totally violated it.

      “Proof that you aren’t credible” is ALSO a feature of science, one which *good* scientists care about.

  • ahoogamazda

    Any updates?

  • Olle Neiman

    Even more tragic was the verbal beatdown he received on Joe Rogan’s podcast.

  • EndWorldStarRacism

    Dunning is a reject and is an opportunist arguer and is the personality of a pompous lawyer. Total complete scumbag. Powerful JRE!

  • Colin V

    Sad I was a fan and just recently found out about Dunning’s fraud conviction. Sad to see so many here defending him when the evidence is out there. Also came across his interview with Joe Rogan and agreed with Rogan 100% despite being biased towards Dunning. Now a bigger fan of Rogan than Dunning.