After nearly three years of legal wrangling Barrett Brown, a journalist who has served as an unofficial spokesman for Anonymous hacking operations, was sentenced to five years in prison.
Brown pleaded guilty to federal charges of obstructing a search warrant, making Internet threats and being an accessory to unauthorized access of a protected computer.
The case against Barrett Brown worried civil-liberties activists and Internet activists that a conviction would criminalize the act of linking on the Internet. Despite Brown’s lack of hacking skills, prosecutors argued that the act of posting a link to the data made him a party to the crime. Seeking to have the charge dismissed, Brown’s attorneys argued in a court motion that Brown did not “transfer” the stolen data but merely republished a public link to information that was already in the public domain.
While the hyperlink charge was ultimately dropped, Brown said the prosecution revisited the link charge during a December sentencing hearing as “relevant conduct” that should be considered in deciding Brown’s punishment.
Under a plea deal with prosecutors, Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $900,000 in restitution and fines. He had faced up to eight and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to the charges in April. The two and a half years he has spent in custody will be credited toward his sentence, according to the Dallas Morning News.