The Solomon Project
October 1995, New York, New York
In October of 1995, Dr. Joseph Bonuso, Ph.D. (a.k.a. Joey Skaggs), research fellow and founding director of the Solomon Project, sent out over 3,000 press releases to the Federal administration, legislators, judges, and law school deans announcing that he and 150 computer scientists and attorneys affiliated with NYULAW, specializing in the field of artificial intelligence, had, over the last seven years, developed a solution to the crisis of American jurisprudence. It was called Solomon.
Solomon was a distributed program running on a set of super computers, that would deliberate upon the facts and evidence of a legal case and deliver a definitive sentence, eliminating the need for juries, and radically reducing the role of judges. All witnesses, lawyers, and judges would be subjected to voice stress analysis and polygraph telemetry to assure their honesty. There would no longer be the chance of inequity in the courtroom due to race, sex, religion, or financial standing.
The press release went on to explain that Solomon had successfully retried some of the most highly visible American legal cases of recent years, such as Mike Tyson, William Kennedy-Smith, Klaus Von Bulow, and Rodney King. It was poised to retry the O.J. Simpson case (the criminal trial had just ended and O.J. had been found innocent). The purpose of the press release was to solicit comments from this august group of legal pundits.
A second press release was sent to the media in November of 1995 titled "Here Comes the Judge,"announcing a 15 city demonstration tour for Solomon.
And, in December of 1995, a third press release was sent to the media announcing that Solomon had found O.J. Simpson guilty.
Throughout this three month period, many letters and phone calls, both pro and con, were sent to the Solomon Project. And, numerous articles were published in legal trade journals and consumer newspapers and magazines. No one knew it was a hoax.
In mid December, CNN contacted Dr. Bonuso, requesting a demonstration. They told him exactly what they hoped to see and scheduled a time to come. On December 27, the 3rd floor of the Voyager Company, a CD ROM publishing group in Soho, New York, was transformed into the headquarters of the Solomon Project. The Voyager sign was replaced with the Solomon Project sign and graphics, one screen deep, were mounted on the computer screens. 25 computer graphics artists were given parts to play in the drama that was about to unfold.
Several of Skaggs' friends who have appeared in or documented many of his other performances, came to help out. The CNN crew was unfazed by the appearance of several video crews. This simply helped to convince them they were on to something hot. They filmed for over an hour and never once were suspicious.
On December 29, 1995, CNN broadcast extensive coverage of the Solomon Project on both of its television networks and on CNN Interactive. On January 30, 1996, they broadcast a lengthy retraction, having found out, the hard way, that they had been had. Unfortunately for CNN, this was not the first time they were found guilty of poor judgment in relation to Joey Skaggs. In fact it was the fifth time a Skaggs piece had been covered on the august network.
When asked why he did it, Skaggs responded, "Our legal system was created by guys with buckles on their shoes and curly, powdered wigs. It just doesn't work anymore. I am personally outraged by the fact that criminal and civil court cases are played out before our very eyes as though they were sporting matches. The truth no longer provides the key to justice."