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Tight Lid on Anonymous-Tied Sentencing

DALLAS (CN) - Prosecutors urged a federal judge to selectively reveal a sentencing memorandum by a journalist once tied to hacktivist group Anonymous.

A 2013 gag order has kept obscured most details about Barrett Lancaster Brown's case, including the charges to which he pleaded guilty this past April.

The original indictment against Brown in 2012 alleged that he posted several videos and messages on YouTube and Twitter in which he threatened to shoot and injure FBI agents, specifically Special Agent Robert Smith. Prosecutors said the suspect was upset that agents had confiscated his computer equipment and questioned his mother.

A second indictment charged Brown with linking to credit card information obtained from the 2011 hacking by Anonymous into Austin-based Stratfor Global Intelligence.

In that case, federal prosecutors said Brown posted a hyperlink online that provided access to stolen Stratfor data, including more than 5,000 credit card account numbers and associated information.

Prosecutors went after Brown a third time for obstruction of justice regarding evidence allegedly concealed during a raid on his mother's home.

Brown, now 33, has been in jail for over two years pending the outcome of the three criminal cases against him.

Faced with sentencing Tuesday, Brown's attorneys moved on Dec. 11 to unseal the sentencing memorandum they filed last month.

Free Barrett Brown called the government's opposition to that effort "incredible."

"It seems clear that the government doesn't want journalists to attend the upcoming hearing with an understanding of what issues are at stake, and they don't want further attention to a case that has already proven to be an embarrassment," the support group said in a statement.

Brown's lawyers say they have received several media inquiries from domestic and foreign media groups requesting the release of the sentencing memoradum.

"The right of the public's access to a sentencing memorandum in a criminal case is based upon both the First Amendment and the common law right to judicial records," the three-page motion to unseal states. "Nonetheless, the privacy interests of the defendant may outweigh the public's right of access to a sentencing memorandum in some cases. In this case, Mr. Brown waives whatever privacy interest he may have and consents to unsealing of his sentencing memorandum and attendant exhibits."

Prosecutors responded Saturday that "the fortuitous Twitter postings" made about the existence of the sealed sentencing memoradum is what "spawned the media interest."

According to their five-page response, prosecutors do not oppose the unsealing of documents as long as content from Brown's pre-sentencing report compiled by probation officers are redacted. They also seek the redaction of "sensitive" or "personally identifying" information.

"The government anticipates that many of the assertions in the Sentencing Memorandum will be a topic of testimony during the sentencing hearing," the motion states. "And although there are numerous inaccuracies in the sentencing memorandum, those inaccuracies will be addressed and corrected at that time. Because the content of the sentencing memorandum with be a topic of testimony during the hearing, the government does not see any harm in unsealing a redacted version of the sentencing memorandum" and certain exhibits.

Brown's supporters say the cases against him have been subjected to "arbitrary and inexplicable secrecy."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Candina Heath had said at the time that Brown's attempt to try the case in the media would spill incorrect and prejudicial information.

Free Barrett Brown urged U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay "to rule in favor of the public's right to know."

It says that putting Brown away for 8.5 years, as recommended by prosecutors, exceeds federal sentencing guidelines. Brown's attorneys want time served.

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