Smathers, 25, pleaded guilty to selling a database of 92 million screen names and email addresses.
Smathers accepted $28,000 for the spam list, which resulted in 7 billion messages flooding the inboxes of AOL members. He was fired last year as a result of his actions, involving using another staff member's password to gain access to the lucrative data.
Smathers claimed that he was lured by the possibility of making easy money through the internet.
"I know I've done something very wrong," Smathers said to U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in a letter. "I was good at navigating in that frontier [the internet] and I became an outlaw." Smathers has been ordered to pay $84,000 to AOL, but the company may receive more if it can prove that its losses were higher.
The case hit headlines, not only for the significance of the threat but as a test for Can-Spam, last year's federal act preventing the sending of unsolicited bulk marketing emails.
Earlier this month SC reported AOL was giving away the bounty retrieved from the successful conviction of spammer Brad Bournival in a prize draw. The prizes include cash, gold and a Hummer H2.