Editor’s Note: MyMPN blogger Cole McMillian shared this firsthand account from today’s sentencing hearing in Texas.
Dallas, Texas — Barrett Brown, journalist, satirist, activist and columnist with links to Anonymous, has been sentenced to 63 months in prison after lengthy litigation.
Brown was charged with three counts: accessory post unauthorized access to a protected computer, threatening a federal agent and obstruction in the execution of a search warrant. Brown was convicted on all three counts receiving a 48 month, 12 month and 3 month sentence all to be served consecutively.
Brown has spent approximately 28 months in jail already which will be credited to his sentence as time served. According to Brown’s attorneys, his best outcome is release to a halfway house after a one year deduction on his prison sentencing contingent upon his completion of a drug program. However, Brown could spend as much as 35 months in prison.
In 2012, Brown was arrested for posting a video to YouTube making what the state deemed “threatening” remarks toward FBI agent Robert Smith. Brown was later charged after sharing a link that contained e-mails and credit card information hacked by AntiSec (a group connected to Anonymous) from intelligence firm Stratfor. When federal agents raided Brown he attempted to hide a laptop in cupboard, leading to an obstruction charge. Brown’s original charges carried a maximum sentence of 105 years, though most of these were dropped.
The prosecution focused heavily on the charge of tampering with a protected computer. There was no physical evidence to show that Brown took part in the hack that resulted in the retrieval of the Stratfor information. The prosecution and Judge Samuel Lindsay knew Brown had been in contact with members of AntiSec, including Jeremy Hammond who is currently serving a 10 year sentence, but past basic communications they had nothing to connect Brown to the hack.
Judge Lindsey seemed sure Brown had been more involved in the hack than the defense was portraying, saying, “Mr. Brown is one of them” and that he “identified targets,” and “assisted hackers.”
Brown admitted he had crossed over from simply being an observer to some involvement and apologized, but staunchly defended that he had taken no part in the retrieval of this information.
I’ve tried to protect my contributors, Your Honor, and I’ve also tried to protect the public’s right to link to source materials without being subject to misuse of the statutes. Last year, when the government offered me a plea bargain whereby I would plead to just one of the eleven fraud charges related to the linking, and told me it was final, I turned it down. To have accepted that plea, with a two-year sentence, would have been convenient—Your Honor will note that I actually did eventually plead to an accessory charge carrying potentially more prison time—but it would have been wrong.
Even aside from the obvious fact that I did not commit fraud, and thus couldn’t sign to any such thing, to do so would have also constituted a dangerous precedent, and it would have endangered my colleagues, each of whom could now have been depicted as a former associate of a convicted fraudster. And it would have given the government, and particularly the FBI, one more tool by which to persecute journalists and activists whose views they find to be dangerous or undesirable. –Barrett Brown, “Barrett Brown’s Allocution Speech,” The Daily Dot
The defense asked to have a trafficking charge removed because the information was already in the, “public domain,” and readily available, but it was over ruled. Essentially, this meant Brown was considered to be trafficking information. Though the documents were already accessible to anyone online, because Brown had posted the link himself he contributed to the “distribution” of it.
This may be the most disturbing outcome of the court case. One similar situation could be retweeting a tweet with a link, even without knowing everything that is in the link before sharing it. Were there illegally obtained material, one could hypothetically be considered liable for sharing it with followers.
Another area of controversy in the case surrounded the timing of the sharing of the link and when charges occurred. Some Anons shared the same information Brown has been convicted for before he did. Without testimony of an individual saying they specifically used Brown’s link to fraudulently charge a credit card, and the lack of time signatures on the transactions, it is impossible to know if the person(s) who used this information did so through Brown’s post or the previous pastebin by Anonymous.
Judge Lindsey believed because Brown shared the information he was equally at fault and to reconcile the two was unnecessary.
The defense also tried to make a case for Brown with regards to his “threatening” video. Brown has had a problem with narcotics from a young age, which he willingly admits, and had abruptly halted his drug use altogether shortly before posting the video.
Brown stated he was in a, “manic,” state and the defense argued this was atypical to Brown’s behavior and character.
The defense argued Brown can be blunt and controversial, but is not a violent person.
The prosecution countered saying this narcotics use shows the, “character,” of Mr. Brown.
In total Brown ended up with at least two years in prison, $890,250 in restitutions to Stratfor and their clients for losses due to the fraudulent activity on the credit cards, $225 in fines, and, upon prison release, three years of supervised release requiring drug compliance (no usage) and computer monitoring systems that cannot be removed as well as random searches of his Internet capable devices.
Free Barrett Brown, an organization that raised money for Brown’s legal fees and spread awareness about his plight said, “We have no doubt that Brown will approach his sentence pragmatically and in stride, making the most of the predicament. He’ll continue to write insightful and hilarious columns from the confines of his cell, reaching thousands of readers and fans.”
Brown responded after his sentencing in a style unique to him with a satirical, unforgiving statement reminding me why I fell in love with his writing originally.
“Good news! — The U.S. government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex. For the next 35 months, I’ll be provided with free food, clothes, and housing as I seek to expose wrong-doing by Bureau of Prisons officials and staff and otherwise report on news and culture in the world’s greatest prison system.
I want to thank the Department of Justice for having put so much time and energy into advocating on my behalf; rather than holding a grudge against me for the two years of work I put into in bringing attention to a DOJ-linked campaign to harass and discredit journalists like Glenn Greenwald, the agency instead labored tirelessly to ensure that I received this very prestigious assignment. — Wish me luck!”
I can’t wait to see what you do next.
Content posted to MyMPN open blogs is the opinion of the author alone, and should not be attributed to MintPress News.