Earlier today LulzSec hacker Jeremy Hammond made a noncooperating guilty plea of one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. He will be sentenced Sept. 6. Hammond had faced as much as life in prison, and in a lengthy statement, he detailed his reasons for taking this plea.
There was little doubt that the politically active anarchist and talented hacker was the one responsible for obtaining the 5 million emails from private intelligence contractor Stratfor. Those emails were offered for sale to WikiLeaks by LulzSec under the initiative of FBI informant Hector Monsegur, known as Sabu, but that plan, which almost certainly would have resulted in criminal charges against WikiLeaks staffers, went off the rails when someone within LulzSec, still unnamed, passed the emails along for free. WikiLeaks then rebranded them the Global Intelligence Files and released them to the public.
In his statement, Hammond confirmed his role in the hack and explained that one of the reasons he took the plea deal was to regain his ability to speak freely. He has been in custody pretrial, held without bail and often in solitary confinement, for 15 months. (Members of Anonymous pointed out that his judge, Loretta Preska, was married to a victim of the Stratfor hack; however, Preska ruled that this did not constitute bias and did not recuse herself from the case.) Here’s his statement:
"There were numerous problems with the government’s case, including the credibility of FBI informant Hector Monsegur. However, because prosecutors stacked the charges with inflated damages figures, I was looking at a sentencing guideline range of over 30 years if I lost at trial. But, even if I was found not guilty at trial, the government claimed that there were eight other outstanding indictments against me from jurisdictions scattered throughout the country. If I had won this trial I would likely have been shipped across the country to face new but similar charges in a different district. The process might have repeated indefinitely. Ultimately I decided that the most practical route was to accept this plea with a maximum of a ten year sentence and immunity from prosecution in every federal court. Now that I have pleaded guilty it is a relief to be able to say that I did work with Anonymous to hack Stratfor, among other websites. Those others included military and police equipment suppliers, private intelligence and information security firms, and law enforcement agencies. I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors. I did what I believe is right."
Support has continued to pour in for Hammond. WikiLeaks issued a statement of support, while Anonymous members turned up for the hearing. Jason Hammond also started a Change.org petition to sentence his twin brother to time served.
“Jeremy has taken responsibility for what he’s done, but he should not face such a harsh sentence for an act of protest from which he did not personally benefit,” he told the Sparrow Project. “I’m glad he’s moved one step closer to freedom but today I’m asking for the judge to consider a sentence appropriate to what is nothing other than a non-violent political protest.”
Correction: Hammond did not actually read his statement in court, as previously reported. He released it after the fact.
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