In a rebuke to a legion of online supporters and what the journalist and one-time member of Anonymous called a “dangerous precedent”, Barrett Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison by a federal judge in Dallas on Thursday.
Brown’s backers from across the web had hoped he would be able to walk free with his 28 months of time served for what they insist was “merely linking to hacked material”. But the 33-year-old, who was once considered something of a spokesman for the Anonymous movement, will face more than twice that sentence. The judge also ordered him to pay $890,000 in restitution and fines.
At one point he was facing a possible combined sentence of over 100 years, but after prosecutors dropped several charges against him following a plea deal, Brown’s sentencing parameters were reduced.
An investigative journalist, essayist and satirist who has written for the Onion, Vanity Fair and the Huffington Post, as well as for the Guardian , Brown claims to have split with the group in 2011, and the leaderless structure of the collective makes the idea of a “spokesman” difficult to even imagine.
Brown also founded Project PM, a crowdsourced investigative thinktank dedicated to looking into abuses by companies in the area of surveillance.
In September 2012, Brown was arrested by the FBI for allegedly threatening a federal agent in a video posted to YouTube. In October 2012, after being held for two weeks without charge, he was indicted on charges of making an online threat, retaliating against a federal officer and conspiring to release personal information about a government employee.
Two months later, he was indicted on 12 further charges related to the hacking of private intelligence contractor Stratfor in 2011.
Jeremy Hammond, the hacker who actually carried out the Stratfor breach, was sentenced to the maximum possible 10 years. Writing for the Guardian from prison in December, Hammond bemoaned that Brown “continues to await his sentencing for merely linking to hacked material” .
Brown, who was accused of sharing a link to the data Hammond obtained from the breach (as well as several further indictments related to withholding or hiding evidence and obstructing the FBI), at one point faced a possible sentence of 105 years.
In a statement to the judge before his sentencing, Brown expressed regret for posting the threatening videos which led to his arrest, calling them “idiotic” and reiterated his defence’s contention that he made them in a manic state brought on by drug withdrawal.
But he also criticised the government’s methods in pursuing his case, and expressed concern that contributors to Project PM might be “indicted under the same spurious charges” as he had been.
“This is not the ‘rule of law’,” Brown told the judge. “[I]t is the ‘rule of law enforcement’, and it is very dangerous.”
You can read his full statement here .
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