A pretrial hearing in the case against accused LulzSec hacker Jeremy Hammond this week ended with the 27-year-old Chicago man being told he could be sentenced to life in prison for compromising the computers of Stratfor.
Judge Loretta Preska told Hammond in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday that he could be sentenced to serve anywhere from 360 months-to-life if convicted on all charges relating to last year’s hack of Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, a global intelligence company whose servers were infiltrated by an offshoot of the hacktivist collective Anonymous.
Hammond is not likely to take the stand until next year, but so far has been imprisoned for eight months without trial. Legal proceedings in the case might soon be called into question, however, after it’s been revealed that Judge Preska’s husband was a victim of the Stratfor hack.
According to the indictment filed in March, Hammond illegally obtained credit card information stolen from Stratfor and uploaded it to a server that was unbeknownst to him maintained by the federal government. Months earlier the FBI had arrested Hector Xavier Monsegur, a New York hacker who spearheaded LulzSec under the alias “Sabu,” and relied on from thereon out to help the authorities nab other individuals affiliated with Anonymous and LulzSec. The feds say Hammond openly admitted to compromising Stratfor’s data in online chats with their informant and unsealed a three count indictment against him relating to hacking back in March.
After Anons gained access to Stratfor’s servers, they collected a trove of internal emails and more thousands of credit card details belonging to the firm’s paid subscribers that were released last Christmas. A class action suit was filed against Strafor over the breach of security, and in June the company settled with its customers at an estimated cost of $1.75 million. Just now, though, it’s been learned that Judge Preska may have a vested interest in seeking a prosecution by any means necessary.
Among the thousands of Statfor client’s whose credit card data was compromised in the hack alleged to be linked to Hammond is Thomas J. Kavaler, a partner at the law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP and the husband of Judge Preska. The archived document dump released by LulzSec last year includes personal information from Mr. Kavaler that suggests he was victimized in the attack and thus qualifies for the class action settlement.
In a press release issued under the branding of the Anonymous collective, supporters for Hammond call for Judge Preska’s immediate resignation from the case.
“Judge Preska by proxy is a victim of the very crime she intends to judge Jeremy Hammond for. Judge Preska has failed to disclose the fact that her husband is a client of Stratfor and recuse herself from Jeremy's case, therefore violating multiple Sections of Title 28 of the United States Code,” the statement reads.
“Judge Loretta Preska's impartiality is compromised by her Husband's involvement with Stratfor and a clear prejudice against Hammond exists, as evident by her statements,” it continues. “Without justice being freely, fully, and impartially administered, neither our persons, nor our rights, nor our property, can be protected.”
According to Sue Crabtree, a member of the Jeremy Hammond Solidarity Network and a witness to his bail hearing this week, Judge Preska ordered the continue incarceration of Hammond on the basis that he is a danger to the community and likely to flee the country if released from holding. Crabtree notes that Hammond does not now nor has he ever had a passport, though, and has also since been added to a terrorist watch list.
“In the end, Jeremy was denied bail because he was deemed a flight risk and more dangerous than [a] sexual predator. And yes, if you are asking yourself if this was said, it was said. Jeremy's legal team stated they would appeal this denial of bail,” she writes on a Facebook group for Hammond.
After Anonymous went public with the hack of Strafor in December 2011, the internal emails from the intelligence firm were handed off to WikiLeaks, who soon after began publishing the findings. Among the information stored in the emails was documentation alleging that law enforcement agencies spied on Occupy Wall Street protesters and proof of an international surveillance system called Trapwire. Hammond is at this point likely to be the first US citizen tried in a civilian court for crimes relating to the whistleblower site.
Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) tells The Real News network this week that the denial of bail is both “very disturbing” and “legally wrong.”
“The bigger story is what they've done in this country to Jeremy Hammond, Bradley Manning, and what they have proposed to do to Julian Assange, and that's really say that they're going to come down as heavily as they can on people who expose government secrets, whistleblowers,” Ratner says.