Hacking leads to prison sentence

Hacking leads to prison sentence
Hacking leads to prison sentence,1,689768.story?coll=chi-newslocalchicago-hed 

By Matt O'Connor
Tribune staff reporter
December 8, 2006

A Chicago man was sentenced to 2 years in prison Thursday for illegally 
accessing the Web site of a conservative political activist group and 
downloading the credit-card numbers of thousands of its members.

Jeremy Hammond plotted to use the credit cards to make donations to 
humanitarian and charity groups opposed by the Protest Warrior Web site 
into which he hacked, but he changed his mind, according to court 

According to his lawyer, Hammond has extreme left-wing political views. 
He admitted to the FBI that he was a member of, which 
identifies itself as "an online movement of hackers, activists and 
anarchists," the court records show.

After Hammond's father had noted his son was 19 at the time and used 
poor judgment, U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel picked up on the 
point, but used more blunt terms.

"You were an idiot when you did it," the judge said. "At the perspective 
of my age, all 19-year-olds are idiots."

Prosecutors had sought up to the maximum 5-year prison term and said 
they wanted Hammond, now 21, immediately jailed for violating bail by 
failing two recent drug tests and being arrested on disorderly conduct 

But Zagel said that was too harsh a sentence in this case and allowed 
Hammond to surrender to prison on Jan. 3.

Hammond was "more interested in countering speech he found wrong rather 
than picking the pockets" of political rivals, the judge said.

In addition to imposing the 2-year prison term, Zagel ordered Hammond to 
pay about $5,250 in fines and restitution and barred him from 
participating with or similar Internet groups for three 
years after his release from prison.

"The threat of what you did is damaging to democratic discourse, your 
side's as well," Zagel told Hammond.

Hammond's father, Jack, contended his son's hacking was an immature act 
of revenge for a similar attack on's Web site.

Though he faulted his son's judgment, the elder Hammond said his son's 
"basic inner moral code is good."

But Assistant U.S. Atty. Brandon Fox said this wasn't the first time 
Hammond had illegally hacked. He wrote pro-drug messages on the 
anti-drug DARE Web site, hacked into a former employer's computer system 
and was expelled from college for hacking, Fox said.

Fox urged a stiff prison term to punish Hammond for his disrespect for 
both the law and the opposing political opinions of others.

In court papers, Hammond's lawyer, Matthew McQuaid, had compared his 
client's computer skills to "a comic book character's `superpower.'"

In court Thursday, McQuaid contended Hammond was too emotionally 
immature to "harness" his political opinions.

According to the court records, Hammond gained access to the credit-card 
information of about 5,000 people who had bought items or donated online 
on Protest Warrior's Web site.

An acquaintance of Hammond's who tipped off authorities to Hammond's 
involvement was upset because Hammond allegedly had let an associate 
take the fall for a previous hacking, the records show.

In comments to the judge, Hammond, who pleaded guilty in September, said 
his motivation wasn't thievery but rather "political rivalry."

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