The lawyer representing a journalist accused of aiding Anonymous hackers informed a jury on Tuesday that the prosecution "had not proven the criminal charges it filed over the incident".
Matthew Keys, the journalist, was indicted on three criminal charges in 2013, alleging (PDF) that he had provided Anonymous hackers with access to his former employer's computer systems in 2010, via an IRC channel called #internetfeds.
Shortly prior to the alleged offence, Keys had left his job at the Fox 40 television station, a subsidiary of the Tribune Media Company, due to a dispute with a supervisor.
He subsequently found employment with Thomson Reuters in 2012, but claimed he was dismissed by the news wire a month after being charged in the indictment.
Reuters reported that a "Thomson Reuters representative declined to comment".
A news story on the Los Angeles Times, another Tribune publication, was vandalised following Keys' transmission of an account username and password to an Anonymous hacker, according to the indictment.
Key's defence called no witnesses during the trial, which was held in Sacramento last week.
As part of its closing argument on Tuesday, the prosecution introduced evidence that Keys had informed the hackers "I want you to fuck some shit up". Assistant US Attorney Paul Hemesath stated that Keys "passed along a password, and then he told them what to do."
Jason Leiderman, Key's lawyer, claimed that the prosecution "had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Keys knew they were hackers who would act at his urging".
Leiderman claimed "Keys was operating as a professional reporter trying to gather information about members of Anonymous," according to Reuters.
Recorded excerpts of an interview with FBI agents, conducted when they visited Keys' apartment before he was charged, were also played.
"Asked if he used his Tribune credentials to log on to the company's systems after he was no longer an employee, Keys said ... 'I did it. I can't deny it. I'm not going to lie about it now'," reported Reuters, adding that Keys had unsuccessfully requested to suppress the video before the trial.
Leiderman added that Keys should be acquitted regardless of the jurors' belief in his guilt, however, as the damage to the LA Times' website was too inexpensive to quality as a felony.
The charges Keys faces carry a combined maximum penalty of 25 years' imprisonment, followed by nine years on supervised release, and a $750,000 fine. He is unlikely to receive the maximum sentence, however, as his conduct is alleged to have caused loss only aggregating at least $5,000 in value.
The trial of USA v. Keys (2:13-cr-00082-KJM) is ongoing. ®