MANHATTAN (CN) - Unrepentant about his computer attacks against law-enforcement groups and a private spy firm, a Chicago-based activist raised a fist in salute to the hacker collective Anonymous and anarchy in general after being sentenced to 10 years in a federal prison.
"This is not the typical federal criminal case, and Jeremy Hammond is not the typical federal court defendant," defense attorney Sarah Kunstler wrote in a 34-page sentencing memo for her client.
Nor was anything typical about the sentencing hearing Friday, held in the ceremonial courthouse of Manhattan's Southern District of New York because of the widespread attention of the case. More than 300 people had packed into gallery: On one side, rows of West Point cadets observed the hearing in uniform. On the other, a far less formal crew of journalists scribbled notes beside Hammond's supporters, friends and family.
All had come to see what sentence Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska would hand down for Hammond's admitted hacks against several organizations, but most famously Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor.
Hammond and four other activists were arrested in a March 2012 sting operation by the FBI based on tips from Hector Monsegur, a hacker known online as Sabu, who led a group called LulzSec before he turned informant. Just one of the hacks extracted 5 million of Stratfor's emails, which WikiLeaks later published under the name "Global Intelligence Files."
The private information of 860,000 Stratfor clients were also exposed, and Hammond's confederates racked up at least $700,000 from their credit cards in donations to political and charity groups. None of that money lined Hammond's pockets, but he allegedly directed where it was spent.
Pursuant to his plea deal , Hammond could get no higher than a decade imprisonment for his crime, but he hoped the plea would put him more in line with the other participants in the hack, who were all from the United Kingdom and received sentences of two years or lower in their home countries.
To Hammond's supporters, the young Chicago activist exposed the opaque partnership between U.S. law enforcement and unaccountable corporate spies that do not have to answer to constitutional checks and balances.
More than 250 letters and a more than 1,000-signature petition poured into Judge Preska's chambers asking for leniency up to a sentence of time served. The signers included Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, the digital civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation and even two self-described victims of the Stratfor hack who were on the firm's client list.
Kunstler, who spoke first for her client despite being two days overdue on her pregnancy, spoke of this support as she carefully approached the lectern for sentencing arguments. She began her remarks by quoting geophysicist Brad Werner who she said told an audience of thousands of scientists that "resistance" and "sabotage" could reverse the toll of the depletion of the Earth's resources.
Her father, self-described "radical lawyer" William Kunstler, advocated for the Chicago Seven, a group who famously turned their trials for allegedly inciting a riot in their demonstrations against the 1968 Democratic National Convention into a public referendum on the Vietnam War.
For the younger Kunstler, Hammond's sentencing was a reckoning for mass surveillance and secrecy, to be viewed in the same lineage as WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.