Slightly reduced sentence for autism sufferer could similarly benefit British hacker
Asperger’s Syndrome has been cited as a mitigating factor in a US trial of a Russian-born hacker in a move which could give hope to supporters of British man Gary McKinnon who is facing extradition to the United States for breaking into military computers and who also reportedly suffers from the condition.
According to a report from Wired, Viachelav Berkovich, 34, from Los Angeles, was given around five months less than the minimum sentence recommended by prosecutors and approximately 23 months less than the US federal minimum guidelines. Siberian-born Berkovich was given a 55 month sentence after his lawyers cited his Asperger’s, a form of autism, as a contributing factor. However despite some leniency on the length of the sentence, Berkovich was still fined around $2,773,074 (£1,670,000) – in payment to the 300 victims involved.
The fraud involved Berkovich and another man, hacking into Department of Transportation website and using the information to execute an elaborate scheme involving a non-existent transportation or “trucking” company.
Forty-three-year old McKinnon, who also suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, hacked into 97 military and NASA systems, during the tense period after the 9/11 attacks, and allegedly caused damage that took £430,000 ($700,000) to repair. He maintains that the hacking was not malicious, and only a bid to find secret information about aliens and unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
US publication Wired, also cited the parallels with the Gary McKinnon’s case but claimed that the reports that the British hacker could be facing 60 years as an exaggeration. “British hacker Gary McKinnon faces anywhere from six months to six-and-a-half years in prison under the guidelines, depending mostly on how much damage he caused, if any. (His supporters, and the British press, tend to inflate the possible sentence to 60 or 70 years.),” Wired reported.
The US military has admitted to attending two major hacker shows in the United States in order to find recruits while at the same time pursuing McKinnon for breaking into government systems.