Anonymous-Linked Man Clears 11 of 12 Charges
DALLAS (CN) - Federal prosecutors have dropped almost all criminal charges against the Dallas journalist who insists that he severed ties with the hacktivist collective Anonymous.
Assistant U.S. District Attorney Candina Heath moved Wednesday to dismiss 11 of the 12 charges against Barrett Brown.
The 32-year-old defendant was originally charged with trafficking in stolen authorization features, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
Prosecutors had said Brown posted an Internet link to credit card information gleaned from the 2011 hacking of security firm Stratfor Global Intelligence.
The posted link allegedly included more than 5,000 account numbers and associated information.
Brown's attorneys also moved Wednesday to dismiss the same 11 counts, which they said penalize Brown for conduct protected by the First Amendment.
Republishing of the hyperlink "cannot be punished absent a showing of a heightened state interest," the 48-page motion states, which says Brown was "engaged in pure political speech."
An original count had accused Brown of "threatening to shoot and injure agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and specifically focusing on Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Robert Smith."
Prosecutors said Brown was upset that federal agents had confiscated his computer equipment and questioned his mother.
In a self-shot video titled "Why I'm Going to Destroy FBI Agent [RS] Part Three: Revenge of the Lithe," Brown allegedly called Smith a "fucking chicken shit little faggot cocksucker" and a "criminal, who is involved in a criminal conspiracy."
"'That's why Robert Smith's life is over, but when I say his life is over, I don't say I'm going to kill him, but I am going to ruin his life and look into his fucking kids,'" the indictment stated.
The remaining count against Brown alleges the aiding and abetting of access device fraud, by possessing the stolen credit card information.
Brown's mother, Karen McCutchin, pleaded guilty in March 2013 to one count of obstructing the execution of a search warrant in hiding Brown's computers. She was sentenced in November to six months probation and fined $1,000.
In September 2013, Brown and federal prosecutors agreed to a gag order that stopped Brown from speaking to the media about his case.
U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay said the continued statements by attorneys and Brown would prevent a fair trial.
"This case has generated extensive local publicity in both the print and broadcast media, as well as social media," the order stated. "This pervasive publicity can be expected to continue during the pendency of these criminal actions. ... To protect that right to a fair trial, it is necessary for the court to take limited steps to restrain counsel and defendant from making prejudicial statements to the press and media."
Brown is scheduled to go to trial on April 28.