Hacker and Internet troll Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison today (March 18) in a hearing that saw plenty of action both inside and outside the courtroom.
At one point during the proceedings at the federal courthouse in Newark, N.J., Auernheimer attempted to use a tablet. Asked to hand it over, he instead handed it to his attorney, Tor Ekeland, according to several witnesses.
That gesture apparently prompted several plainclothes security officers to tackle Auernheimer and wrestle him to the ground.
"They were banging his head on the table," one witness said. Ekeland later confirmed that detail on Twitter.
After a five-minute recess, Auernheimer, 27, was returned to the courtroom in shackles. The prosecution asked that that detail be entered into the court transcript.
Auernheimer was taken into custody immediately after the hearing, apparently at his own request. He and co-defendant Daniel Spitler, who testified against Auernheimer, were ordered to pay AT&T $73,000 in restitution.
"Andrew wanted to go right into custody," Ekeland said via Twitter. "He was sick of the terms of his pretrial release."
During the sentencing, prosecutors used the transcript of a question-and-answer session Auernheimer conducted yesterday (March 17) on the online public forum Reddit to argue that Auernheimer showed no remorse for his crimes.
Blogger and journalist Tim Pool said the prosecutors also cited accusations against Auernheimer from Encyclopedia Dramatica, a hacker-curated repository of rumor and innuendo that few regular users would consider a reliable source of information, as a window into Auernheimer's character.
Ekeland and former computer-crimes prosecutor Orin Kerr, a professor of law at George Washington University, are appealing the conviction. Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation of San Francisco announced it would join the appeal team.
Rejectees and ejectees
Outside the packed courtroom, half a dozen people waited in vain for open seats.
They were joined during the course of the hearing by two or three people who were ejected from the courtroom after court officers noticed them touching their smartphones. (Recording devices and cameras were not allowed in the building.)
One of the courtroom ejectees, Jamie Cochran, a self-described Internet troll who had taken a train from Chicago for the sentencing, confronted court officers and demanded to be let back inside the room.
Told that wouldn't be possible, Cochran loudly exclaimed "PENISES" and "DONGS" every time the door opened. She was eventually escorted from the building.
Another would-be attendee, who gave his name only as "Heph" or "Hephaestus," had flown to the hearing from San Francisco. Two others had driven up from Washington, D.C.
A reporter demanded to be let in and showed a court officer his business card.
"Anyone could have that," the officer said, and refused to let the man in.
In November, Auernheimer was convicted of fraud and of conspiracy to violate the 1984 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
He and Spitler had in 2010 accessed hidden pages on an AT&T website and collected email addresses for approximately 114,000 iPad owners.
Auernheimer then gave the list of addresses to the Gawker blog, which posted a story about AT&T's lack of online security.
No names were attached to the email addresses, but many appeared to belong to noteworthy individuals, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer and then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. (Emanuel is now mayor of Chicago.)
Prosecutors charged that accessing the hidden pages on the AT&T website constituted accessing a protected computer without authorization, a federal crime.
Auernheimer and his defense argued that no password was needed to view the pages, which were open to the public and automatically displayed a private email address when sent the correct URL, or Web address.
"I've gotten tons of calls from computer-security researchers, people in the financial services industry, people who data mine, who are all freaking out about this," Ekeland told reporters outside the courtroom before the hearing. "This is what computer researchers do all the time — they test systems for vulnerabilities. By chilling that activity, they [the government] are actually making the Internet less safe."
Cheers and tears
The night before his sentencing, Auernheimer and his friends gathered in a warehouse near the courtroom in downtown Newark to throw an all-night party.
At 9:30 a.m. today, an hour before the sentencing, Auernheimer arrived at the courthouse wearing the same clothes from the night before.
Smiling and yet a bit tearful, according to video that Pool shot and broadcast live on the Web, Auernheimer hugged friends and cheerfully addressed the crowd.
"I'm going to prison for arithmetic. I added one to a ... number on a public Web server and I aggregated this data and I gave it to a ... journalist at that man's publication," he said, pointing to Gawker blogger Adrian Chen. "I'll see you all in federal prison."
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