Man with ties to hacking group competent for trial

AP News
Posted: Jan 30, 2013 5:29 PM

DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas man who once acted as a de facto spokesman for the global hacking collective Anonymous has the mental competence to stand trial as he faces three federal indictments against him, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

Barrett Brown first landed in prison after posting tweets and YouTube videos that ripped opponents and lashed out at what he saw as his greatest opponent: the FBI. In one YouTube video, he promised to ruin an agent's life and "look into his (expletive) kids."

Brown stood in a Dallas courtroom Wednesday wearing orange scrubs and sporting a shorter haircut. After a brief moment of confusion when U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay first asked him to identify himself, Brown answered the judge's questions without any seeming difficulty.

His attorney, Doug Morris, told Lindsay that Brown had come a long way since his September arrest, when Morris "had some concerns" about Brown's mental state.

"He's in much better shape than when he was first brought into court," Morris said.

Brown acknowledged he was taking opiates before he was detained, but said he had gone through detox in prison and was now taking antidepressants under psychiatric care. He remains detained at a Dallas-area facility.

Brown has described himself as a spokesman for Anonymous, a shadowy movement that prides itself on anonymity but is known for daring cyber-attacks on governments and businesses. Brown was quoted in various outlets, including The Associated Press, and claimed at one point to win a book deal reaching six figures. He also kept an active social media presence.

In court Wednesday, he listed his occupation as a freelance writer and author, without mentioning Anonymous.

Brown has previously called himself an "anarcho-pragmato-capitalist and quietist with militant and net-organizational tendencies," and in online posts has attacked federal agents who he said were investigating him. In the weeks before his Sept. 12 arrest, Brown made several vitriolic comments about one FBI agent he identified as Robert Smith.

He suggested in one YouTube video that Smith's life was "over" and posted an email address for viewers who wanted to submit information on Smith.

"But when I say his life is over, I don't say I'm going to go kill him," Brown said. "But I am going to ruin his life and look into his (expletive) kids."

The first indictment against him, filed in October, quoted liberally from those videos and his tweets. It charged him with making Internet threats and retaliating against law enforcement.

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The second indictment, announced in December, included aggravated identity theft and device fraud charges. Brown was accused of making public an Internet link that provided access to credit card information stolen from Stratfor, a private intelligence firm that had hacked information publicized by WikiLeaks.

A third indictment filed Jan. 23 accuses Brown of concealing two laptops containing evidence at the home of an associate identified only by the initials "KM."

Brown has pleaded not guilty to all three indictments.

Lindsay agreed to set an April 8 trial date for the original indictment and scheduled trial on the second and third indictments for May 6. Those dates could be pushed back, though Morris would not say after court if he intended to ask for a delay.

Prosecutor Candina Heath asked Lindsay not to schedule all three indictments for the same trial — in part, she said, because a federal agent in two of the cases was considered a victim in the third.