Barrett Brown has been sentenced to 63 months in prison, minus 28 already served, by a court in Dallas today.
He has also been ordered to pay $890,000 in restitution.
The journalist originally faced a maximum term of 105 years before a plea bargain brought the upper limit down to eight and a half.
Brown was arrested in September 2011, on charges of threatening a federal agent. A tired and distressed Brown had posted a rambling video to YouTube in which he threatened to “destroy” an agent who had pursued both Brown and his mother for a number of months.
As one of the most dedicated investigative journalists, Brown has torn and scratched at the trouser legs of the intricate and blurred public-private axis that represents cyber security and intelligence. Proving no minor irritant, Brown has faced-off against all comers.
His work has been vital in trying to help those who want to learn and understand about the expensive, fearsome and mysterious decisions being made over the heads of everybody else. He has imparted his knowledge of the surveillance state and its demonic potential to others, long before Snowden, hoping the fight and protests continue.
But after his first indictment, Brown was slapped with further charges relating to distribution of stolen information from the Stratfor hack. Brown will serve over five years in prison total for pasting a link to a chatroom of information that the prosecution has no evidence of Brown obtaining, storing or using.
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In a powerful allocution delivered to the court prior to sentencing, Brown railed against the prosecution’s many hypocrisies and shifting narratives. He stood up for friends and colleagues that had been sucked into the trial’s vortex. Most of all, he used his allocution to appeal to the judge on a human level in a case which has crushed Brown with the grim perpetuity of a factory machine.
Although some see the airing of grievances in an allocution as a mistake, Brown was undeterred and more than willing to elaborate on the errors he believes the prosecution have committed.
“Your Honor, I understand that this is my sentencing hearing and not an inquiry into the government’s conduct” began one statement. “This is not the place to go into the dozens of demonstrable errors and contradictions to be found in the government’s documentation and the testimony by the government. But it would be hypocritical of me to protest the government’s conduct and not provide Your Honor with an example.”
Brown then goes on to detail another strong example of the prosection’s failings throughout the course of the trial.
Wikileaks founder Julien Assange released a statement in December 2014 backing Brown’s cause, and highlighted yet more double standards and strong arm tactics on the prosecution’s side.
It’s not very difficult to be of the opinion that Brown has been arrested, dealt with in a very heavy-handed fashion and left facing a bleak future not because of what he has done, but because of what he has seen and knows.
It is a dangerous time not just for journalists and hacktivists, but for anyone wishing to dig deeper of their own volition.