Image: Soumil Kumar

Team Xecutor member Gary Bowser was recently jailed for three years and fined almost $15 million for his part in a business which enabled Switch owners to hack their systems and play pirated games, and recently-unearthed court documents – dug up by Axios (thanks, Eurogamer) – reveal that the harsh sentence was very much intended to send a message to other hackers.

Nintendo lawyer Ajay Singh outlined the gravity of the situation:

This is a very significant moment for us. It’s the purchase of video games that sustains Nintendo and the Nintendo ecosystem, and it is the games that make the people smile. It’s for that reason that we do all we can to prevent games on Nintendo systems from being stolen.

US district judge Robert Lasnik openly discusses the idea of setting an example in the transcript of the court case. "What do you think? What else can we do to convince people that there's no glory in this hacking/piracy?" Judge Lasnik asked Nintendo's lawyer, who replied: "There would be a large benefit to further education of the public."

Judge Lasnik added: "I always tell the jurors, 'Your role is not to send a message. Your role is to decide guilt or innocence on the facts'. But my role sometimes does entail sending a message." However, he decided not to sentence Bowser to five years, as per the wishes of Nintendo's legal team, but three. He noted that he would reserve the longer sentence for Bowser's two Team Xecuter accomplices, Max Louarn and Yuanning Chen, both of whom still remain at large.

"I want the message to be clear that, under normal circumstances, I would send Mr Bowser to prison for five years," Lasnick added. "If Mr Louarn comes in front of me for sentencing, he may very well be doing double-digit years in prison for his role and his involvement, and the same with the other individual."

For their part, Bowser's lawyers noted how their client had lost 90 pounds during his time in prison due to the fact that he had been unable to get a leg condition treated. This had left him wheelchair-bound.

His legal team also explained the rather harrowing nature of his confinement:

This is a picture of a typical cell at the detention center at SeaTac. Two people live in this space. I showed this to Mr. Bowser this morning - because this is not his cell - and he said, 'Well, you know, I'm in a somewhat special cell. Mine is about 18-inches wider because it's a special cell to accommodate the wheelchair that I was using much of the time, and I get the bottom bunk because of my problem.' But there are two people here. For six months of the last 16 months, he has been locked in this sized cell, plus 18 inches, for at least 23 hours a day. During the height of Covid, they only let people out every three days to go out to take a shower for maybe a half an hour and come back.

Bowser also made a statement during the trial, explaining its impact on his personal health:

It has been a very traumatic experience for me getting arrested, coming here, going through this. This is my first time actually in a jail going through the court process and everything. And the amount of time I've spent already, 16 months in custody, a lot of that time - I spent six months, basically, locked up due to Covid. I went through all three of the Covid waves before there was even a vaccine available. I personally haven't got the vaccine [as] I am skeptical with my medical condition, how it will affect me, and I haven't been able to actually have proper medical treatment because I haven't been able to have a one-on-one with a doctor to see if the vaccine would be possible with my health conditions. When I first got arrested, I was 410 pounds. I had to use a wheelchair. I spent my life drinking, since I was age 15, after my mom died, and this is the longest time I have been sober in my life.

Bowser's legal team also noted that Bowser had made around $320k from the venture over the course of seven years – much less than the $14.5m in fines he would be asked to pay at the conclusion of the trial.

As previously reported, photos of Bowser's home did not appear to suggest a person with a large amount of personal wealth.

[source axios.com, via eurogamer.net]