Hacker Pays To Avoid 440 Year Prison Sentence

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

No brainer of the day? A hacker in Texas pays $10,000 to avoid a possible 440-year prison sentence

A computer hacker in America has agreed to pay a modest financial penalty in order to avoid potentially spending up to 500 years in jail.

The hacker, 28-year-old Fidel Salinas, is reportedly part of the hacker collective known as Anonymous, which last week launched a major cyberattack against the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) following the group’s threats to attack protesters in the stricken town of Ferguson.

Cash For Porridge?

But it seems that Salinas involvement with Anonymous was not part of the charges he faced from US authorities.

Salinas had reportedly hacked into the administrative website of Hidalgo County in October with the intent to gain unauthorized access, according to the NY Daily News. He was charged with one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Arrest cyber crime security - Shutterstock - © Evlakhov ValeriyWhen Salinas pleaded not guilty to the single count, federal prosecutors then brought new counts of computer fraud against him. Indeed, federal prosecutors hit him with 44 felony computer fraud charges. Each charge potentially could have resulted in a total of 440 years in prison if he was convicted, as each carry carried a possible ten year prison sentence.

In the end however, Salinas opted to accept a plea agreement, and agreed to pay $10,000 (£6,324) in restitution. He also now only faces a year behind bars, because he pleaded guilty to a downgraded charge of a single misdemeanour. He had been accused of making more than 14,000 attempts to access the county website and several attempts to cyberstalk an unnamed victim.

But his lawyer is not happy, and alleges that US federal prosecutors threw the extra charges at him in an attempt to intimidate the hacker into an unfavourable plea or to damage his reputation.

“The more I looked at this, the more it seemed like an archetypal example of the Department of Justice’s prosecutorial abuse when it comes to computer crime,” Salinas’ defence attorney, Tor Ekeland, told Wired.

“It shows how aggressive they are, and how they seek to destroy your reputation in the press even when the charges are completely, fricking garbage,” he reportedly said.

Meanwhile on this side of the Atlantic, the co-founder of the Pirate Bay Gottfrid Svartholm Warg was sentenced to more time in prison in October, after a Danish court found him and a Danish co-defendant guilty of hacking.

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