DALLAS (CN) - The mother of a jailed journalist linked to the hacktivist collective Anonymous avoided jail time for hiding her son's computers from federal agents.
Karen McCutchin's son, Barrett Brown, is awaiting trial on a list of charges associated with alleged threats he made against an FBI agent, for hiding the computers and for identity theft. He faces over 100 years in federal prison.
His mother pleaded guilty in March to one count of obstructing the execution of a search warrant and faced up to one year in federal prison.
She was sentenced Friday to six months probation and fined $1,000.
During the sentencing hearing, McCutchin apologized to U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Stickney for hiding the computers during the March raid of her home, where Brown had been living, the Dallas Morning News reported.
"My better judgment was clouded by my maternal instinct," McCutchin said.
Stickney said her crime did not warrant jail time.
"I feel for you, as a parent," Stickney said. "I know you did the best you could."
Defense attorney Bob Webster, with Fitzpatrick Hagood in Dallas, said McCutchin tried to help her son and did what she thought was right.
"The last thing she wanted was to bring harm to Barrett," Webster said. "She would do that until her dying breath. If circumstances arose, I'm very sure she would do that again."
Brown, 32, will be tried on April 28, 2014.
The journalist is accused of posting several videos and messages on YouTube and Twitter between March and September 2012, "threatening to shoot and injure agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and specifically focusing on Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Robert Smith."
Brown had been upset over the questioning of his mother, according to the October 2012 indictment.
Two months later, a second indictment charged Brown with posting an Internet link to credit card information that had been culled from the 2011 hacking by Anonymous of the security firm Stratfor Global Intelligence. Prosecutors say Brown posted the link that provided access to data stolen from the company, including more than 5,000 credit card account numbers and associated information.
The second indictment charged Brown with trafficking in stolen authorization features, access device fraud, and 10 counts of aggravated identity theft.
In September, 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."
In opposing the gag order, Brown's attorneys described him as an investigative journalist whose First Amendment rights are at stake.
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