Barrett Brown is going to be spending a little longer inside than he thought after a Dallas judge threw the book at him on charges related to the hacking attack on private US intelligence firm Stratfor.
Lawyers for Brown had been hoping their client would get off with time served, as he has spent the last 28 months in federal prison. Instead he got five years and three months for aiding and abetting, attempting to hide evidence, and threatening a Federal officer, and will have to pay a fine of $890,000, most of which will go to Stratfor.
"For the next 35 months, I'll be provided with free food, clothes, and housing as I seek to expose wrongdoing by Bureau of Prisons officials and staff and otherwise report on news and culture in the world's greatest prison system," Barrett said in a statement.
"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!"
Brown came to prominence in 2011 as a journalist with a close relationship to some members of the hacking group Anonymous. He set up the Project PM wiki to analyze leaked information from events like the HBGary hack and appeared on the media as a self-declared Anonymous spokesperson.
In March 2012 federal investigators raided his and his mother's house as part of an investigation into the HBGary affair and others like it. Several laptops were seized and taken away for investigation.
In September 2012 he posted a trio of 15-minute rants on YouTube in which accused the FBI of going after him and his mother and threatening to release identifying information on a certain officer. During the rant Brown admitted he was weaning himself off opiates at the time of filming.
He was arrested the same day and charged with threats, conspiracy and retaliation against a federal law enforcement officer shortly afterwards. Then in December 12 more charges were added, related to the hacking of secretive US data investigations outfit Stratfor.
On Christmas Day 2011 Strafor's website went dark and Anonymous announced it had comprehensively pwned the firm and stolen 200GB of data. Stratfor emails published via WikiLeaks showed that the US government had already drawn up secret charges against Assange and revealed that the security firm was storing credit card details and passwords in plain text.
That credit card data was used to make donations to various charities. Brown published a hyperlink to some of the stolen credit card files from wikisend.com from the Anonops IRC to his own channel. The Feds insisted this was a form of identity theft, a position Barrett's lawyers opposed.
In January two more charges were added against Brown for trying to conceal laptops during the March FBI raid, bringing his maximum possible time inside to over 100 years if found guilty. His mother was also charged and received a six month suspended sentence and a small fine.
The case was placed under a media gagging order in September 2013 and two months later Jeremy Hammond, the hacker who cracked Stratfor, got the maximum sentence of ten years in prison for his role.
In a plea bargain arranged last March the government agreed to drop most of the charges against Brown relating to his posting of the hyperlink. But the remaining charges stuck, and now he's off to prison until 2019 at the latest, although he'll be eligible for parole in a year. ®