Illustration by Dell Cameron
On Monday, US Attorney Sarah Saldaña filed a superseding indictment in the government’s case against Barrett Brown.
“It’s conceivable,” attorney Jay Leiderman told me yesterday, that the prosecution, which dismissed 11 of Brown’s charges last month, “is about to reach a plea deal with Barrett.”
It appears now, that a plea deal has been reached. After bringing multiple cases against Brown, three of which he had pleaded "not guilty" to, federal prosecutors have salvaged a minute victory over Brown. Originally, they sought to put him behind bars for 105 years. The prosecutors were granted a seal on the plea agreement by the court.
Of the two counts pleaded to in the indictment, one, of “Accessory After the Fact,” links Brown to Jeremy Hammond a/k/a “o,” and the 2011 Stratfor hack. The other claims that Brown, having been “aided and abetted by another person,” (his mother), obstructed the execution of a search warrant on March 6, 2012, the day after Hammond’s arrest.
Leiderman, who was driving while we spoke, had me read the three-page indictment to him. If Brown pleaded to the two counts, we calculated together that he would face a maximum punishment of 4.5 years: the accessory charge carries a 2.5 year punishment, and the second count carries two maximum punishments (18 U.S. Code § 1501-1502) of “not more than one year.”
“A realistic estimate of what he might be facing could be 30 months with 19 already served,” said Kevin M. Gallagher, director of Free Barrett Brown. He added that Brown will likely petition the court for leniency, and told me, “We believe he has a strong chance of getting time served, and ultimately will be out of jail this year.”
The new indictment illustrates just how differently the government and his supporters view Brown's actions. Federal prosecutors state that he intentionally diverted attention away from Hammond, misleading the authorities (and Stratfor) with regards to his identity.
Brown is, however, a credentialed journalist who has been published by numerous respected outlets. As such, supporters would argue he had a constitutional right to defend his sources against prying federal investigators. The prosecution has continuously shifted its tactics in pursuing the case, and "has thoroughly embarrassed itself," said Leiderman. He reflected on the Government's dismissal of charges that sought to criminalize Brown's sharing of a hyperlink, citing a clear inability for prosecutors to hold their case together.
A re-arraignment is scheduled to take place in the Dallas federal courthouse on April 29th, according to electronic filings.
"Yeah," said Gallagher, "he's coming home soon."