MANHATTAN (CN) – Chicago-based activist Jeremy Hammond pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges stemming from the Anonymous-linked cyber-attacks against major media companies, governments around the world and private intelligence firms around the world.
In March, Hammond and four other activists were arrested after being swept up in a sting operation by Hector Monsegur (a.k.a. Sabu), a former leader of the hacker group LulzSec who became an FBI informant.
The four other co-defendants, Ryan Ackroyd, Jake Davis, Darren Martyn and Donncha O’Cearrbhail, face possible extradition from the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Of the five defendants, Hammond has been the most prominent among Anonymous supporters, who scattered across the side of the pews reserved for spectators. Hammond raised a fist to them as he entered the room, and then placed both hands behind his back as though they were placed in imaginary handcuffs.
His attorneys, Elizabeth Fink and Margaret Kunstler, are well-known civil rights defenders. Fink is best known for her class action suing on behalf of the prisoners injured in the Attica Prison revolt. Kunstler is the widow of her late husband William Kunstler, the self-described “radical lawyer” known for representing free speech icons, civil rights luminaries and an infamous bomber alike.
Hammond spoke little during the brief hearing after delivering his plea.
Judge Loretta Preska, the chief judge of the Manhattan Federal Court, said that the “primarily electronic” discovery on the case would be “voluminous” because of the scale of the alleged hacks.
Just one of the alleged hacks extracted 5 million emails from the private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, which Wikileaks later published under the name “Global Intelligence Files.”
The files exposed details of federal surveillance of Occupy Wall Street, the possible existence of a sealed indictment against Julian Assange, and global media partnerships with private spies.
According to one charge of aggravated identity theft, Hammond and others sifted through the private information of 860,000 Stratfor clients and spent at least $700,000 from their credit cards.
A prior complaint stated that they spent an unspecified portion of this money in donations to “dozens of charities and revolutionary organizations.”
Both parties agreed to pause the speedy trial clock for about two months to sort out all of the information for an upcoming trial.
Outside the courtroom, Fink championed hactivism as “the latest form of social protest” in the tradition of the Egyptian revolution and Arab Spring at an impromptu press conference with reporters.
“They’re using the computer the same way the people in Tahrir Square used it,” Fink said.
She added that the indictment against her client and others was an “indictment of Anonymous” and an “indictment of Wikileaks.”
Hammond’s criminal complaint also details his involvement in traditional activism, detailing his history of protesting oil companies, political figures, the Chicago Olympics and, in one instance, a Holocaust denier.
“Hammond himself stated in an interview with the FBI that he intended to use hacking to fight for social justice,” the original complaint stated.
This information did not appear in his new indictment.
Fink also pointed out that Hammond is accused of hacking into the Arizona Department of Public Safety, in protest to what she called the state’s “racist and anti-human rights” immigration policies. Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpiao faces federal prosecution for alleged civil rights abuses.
She says that Hammond has continued his activism inside prison, helping other inmates study for their General Equivalency Diplomas.
Meanwhile, Fink and the other lawyers say they have kept their client stocked with reading material, including Spanish language study guides, the civil rights tome “Carry Me Home,” and the sci-fi novel Crypto-Nomicon.
Fink said that prison officials would not let her pass on “A Time to Die,” an account of the Attica revolt penned by late New York Times writer Tom Wicker.
The parties will meet again on July 23.