A Nebraska man has admitted he participated in a mass attack last year that briefly brought the Church of Scientology's website to its knees.
In a plea agreement signed Friday, Brian Thomas Mettenbrink, 20, said he downloaded custom software from a message board controlled by the anti-Scientology group known as Anonymous with the intent of inflicting damage to the COS, or Church of Scientology.
"Defendant used that software to, without authorization, access the COS websites at such a high rate that it impaired the integrity and availability of the COS websites and the computer system where they were hosted," the agreement stated.
Mettenbrink was scheduled to stand trial next month on charges that in late January of 2008, he took part in attacks that left websites associated with the COS intermittently unavailable. A group calling itself Anonymous took credit for the crippling denial-of-service attacks and said it was part of an ongoing war it had declared against the highly secretive group.
He is scheduled to formally enter his guilty plea in court next week, according to a release issued by the US Attorney's office in Los Angeles.
Mettenbrink will become the second individual to plead guilty in the attacks. In October 2008, Dmitriy Guzner, then an 18-year-old from Verona, New Jersey, admitted he also helped carry out the attacks. In November, he was sentenced to more than a year in federal prison.
Anonymous launched the campaign against the COS after the organization demanded websites pull a video of Tom Cruise that was shot at an church awards event. Tactics used in the campaign included nuisance phone calls to COS premises, denial-of-service attacks, and monthly protests outside COS facilities. Members of the loosely-affiliated group are known for wearing Guy Fawkes-style masks during protests.
The plea agreement said Mettenbrink and prosecutors agreed that 12 months of incarceration was an appropriate sentence, but the judge will have the final say. ®