Chapter 5 - Afternoon April Fools Day, 2003 - Episode 1Listen to podcast
Initial Interview by NYPD Detective Mark Cohen 4/1/2003
Dom Montain (11:15 A.M.)
Q: Mr. Montain, this is an informal interview. However, you do have the right to an attorney of your choosing. If you cannot afford an attorney, the City will provide one for you. Moreover, any statements you make to me today could be used against you in a court of law. This interview is being taped. Do you understand and agree to these conditions?
A: Yes and yes.
Q: Do you wish to be represented by an attorney?
A: Not at this time.
Q: If, at any time during this interview, you wish to be represented by an attorney, please make that known and the interview will cease until representation has been arranged. Is that understood?
A: Is what understood? By whom?
Q: Do YOU understand that the interview will be terminated at any time you wish to be represented by an attorney?
A: Yes. I understand.
Q: I am now handing you a consent form in which you acknowledge that I have advised you of your right to be represented by any attorney and that you have elected to proceed without an attorney at this time. Are you comfortable signing this form?A: Do you mean will I sign the form?
Q: Will you sign the form of your own free will?
A: Yes since that’s how the game is played.
Q: The transcript of this interview will show that you reviewed the consent form, signed it, and handed it to me. Please state your full name.
A: Dom Carl Montain.
Q: Not Dominick?
A: Dom, not Dominick.
Q: Are you now or have you ever been married?
A: No, never.
Q: Have you ever used any other name?
Q: What is your address?
A: 39 Worth Street, Apartment 10-B, New York, New York, 10013 dash 2989.
Q: Where and when were you born?
A: White Plains, New York. September 20, 1972.
Q: What is your educational background?
A: Public schools in White Plains through fourth grade. Sixth grade through eighth at Hommocks Middle School in Mamaroneck...
Q: Where were you for fifth grade?
A: I skipped fifth. Ninth grade through twelfth at Mamaroneck High School, although I skipped tenth grade. I attended California Institute of Technology in 1987 and 1988.
Q: Did you graduate?
Q: Where is California Institute of Technology located?
A: The main campus is in Pasadena, California. There are Caltech facilities around the world.
Q: What facilities were you at?
A: I was at Pasadena.
Q: Why did you leave college before graduating?
A: I left to join a software startup.
Q: Were you asked to leave?
A: I was not!
Q: What was your grade-point average for the two years you were there? Did you complete two years?
A: My grade-point average was three-point-eight for the first year and three-point-nine for the second. Yes; I completed two years.
Q: What stopped you from having a perfect four-point-zero?
A: I had an incompetent Freshman English instructor my first year and a disagreement with a physics professor my second year.
Q: So you didn’t make any mistakes that made your scores less than perfect?
A: I did not. Some people would say that not giving the physics professor the answers he wanted was a mistake but I disagree.
Q: Did you have any disciplinary trouble at college?
A: I have excellent discipline.
Q: I mean was any disciplinary action taken against you?
A: Caltech operates on the honor system.
Q: Who enforces the honor system?
A: The students do.
Q: Was any enforcement action under the student honor system taken against you?
A: No enforcement action was taken against me.
Q: Was any enforcement action PROPOSED against you?
A: Yes. How did you know? Have you looked up my records? That’s not supposed to be in my record since no action was taken.
Q: I didn’t know. That’s why I asked. For what infraction was action proposed against you?
A: There was no infraction! I won the freshman robot demolition contest.
Q: What is the freshman robot demolition contest and why would action be proposed against you for winning it?
A: Each year freshmen are given basic materials to build robots. These robots compete in a series of one-on-one fights to the death. The student whose robot destroys all of its opponents wins. Action was proposed against me by some losers because I won. They were bitter. They thought they were smarter than me. They weren’t.
Q: On what grounds was the action proposed?
A: On the grounds that I cheated.
Q: Did you cheat?
A: I DID NOT! There were no rules prohibiting my tactics!
Q: What were your tactics?
A: The other robots were programmed to lose to my robot.
Q: There were no rules against tampering with other students robots?
A: There was a very strict rule against any physical contact with any of the materials supplied to any students in any form including, of course, the finished robots.
Q: Didn’t you violate this rule?
A: I did not.
Q: Then how did you program the other students’ robots to lose to yours?
A: I didn’t. They programmed themselves to lose to my robot.
Q: I don’t understand. How is that possible?
A: All of the other students downloaded the same shareware to their robots for enemy recognition. This was not a “material supplied to them”; it was shareware they CHOSE to use because none of them could write a pattern recognition program as good in the time allotted. I did, of course, but the others couldn’t. So I hacked the site that had the pattern recognition software and changed it so that it couldn’t recognize my robot as an enemy. That meant my robot could easily approach and destroy my opponents.
Q: I think I understand. But, if your pattern recognition software was different from and better than everybody else’s, wouldn’t you have won anyway?
A: You’re pretty smart. Yes, I probably would have. But why take a chance? This was war and the object was to win. I didn’t know I had the best pattern recognition until I heard that all the others were downloading theirs from the same place. Once I knew that, I knew how vulnerable they were and that I could assure myself of victory. So I did.
Q: What was the outcome of the proposed enforcement action?
A: Since there was no rule against what I did, no action was taken. That was right. But, since the losers were popular, the contest that year was declared null and void. They said that the rules were “inadequate”. That was unfair. I won under the same rules that applied to everyone. Of course, they changed the rules for subsequent years, and that’s perfectly fair. But what they did to me was NOT fair.
Q: Is that why you left college before graduating?
A: It is not. That was unfair but I lived with it. That was the beginning of my freshman year and I stayed through my sophomore year.
Q: Was your dispute with your chemistry professor why you left?
A: It was a physics professor. No, I left to join a software startup.
Q: Why did you want to do that instead of getting a degree from Caltech? Even I’ve heard of Caltech. It’s very prestigious.
A: Caltech was getting boring. All I care about ... all I cared about was the software I wrote. And the software I wrote for courses was boring. Joining the startup was a way to write great software and be recognized for it.