In a courtroom packed with supporters and sympathizers, 28-year-old computer hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to the maximum ten years in prison for his role in cyberattacks against a private defense firm, law enforcement agencies and what prosecutors called "thousands of innocent individuals."
Hammond portrayed his actions as acts of civil disobedience, but Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said Hammond "hacked into websites he disagreed with politically."
As part of the loose hacking collective Anonymous, Hammond had pleaded guilty to a December 2011 hack of Stratfor, the defense intelligence group that compromised the confidential information of some 860,000 employees and subscribers.
"While he billed himself as fighting for an anarchist cause, in reality, Jeremy Hammond caused personal and financial chaos for individuals whose identities and money he took and for companies whose businesses he decided he didn't like," said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
According to court records, Hammond and others stole credit card information for tens of thousands of users and used some of the stolen data to make more than $700,000 in unauthorized charges.
Hammond also admitted to a role in several other cyberattacks against the FBI and other law enforcement agencies across the country. At one point during his sentencing Judge Preska silenced Hammond as he started to disclose classified information about countries and governments affected by his hacking.
His supporters say Hammond is a gifted young computer programmer motivated by a desire to expose secret activities of private intelligence firms.
"We love you Jeremy," one of his supporters called out before Hammond was led away to begin serving his sentence. Outside court supporters quietly held signs that said "right to transparency" and "the right to know."
Judge Preska said Hammond claimed to have altruistic motives but proved "he has a propensity to commit crimes" and she said he "has demonstrated no respect for the law."
"His sentence underscores that computer hacking is a serious offense with damaging consequences for victims," Bharara said.