Axe-wielding Texans savage oak tree, post pics, get caught

Illegal loggers fingered by own website

Updated One guiding principle of committing the perfect crime is to leave or no evidence of the misdemeanour. A good set of prints on the murder weapon or a size-ten shoeprint in the flowerbed will not help your case when the Feds come hammering on your door.

Sadly, the five Texas men who took an axe to an oak tree in Austin completely ignored this criminal tenet when one of them posted a full photo spread of the outrage on his website. Three of the five are core members of the distributed.net cryptography project, used by 60,000 computer users worldwide.

According to The Austin American Statesman, Jeffrey Lawson, 25, Daniel Baker, 20, and David McNett, 32 - and two unknown accomplices - assaulted the tree at Riata Apartment Homes in Northwest Austin on 1 Jan 2002. Sixteen months later a Riata employee "stumbled across" the incriminating snaps on Baker's website and the police dragnet closed in.

Local residents are suitably furious about this piece of malicious deforestation. The three felons must take some comfort from the fact that they have chopped down the one thing from which they might otherwise have been dancing the Tyburn jig - as is the local custom in Texas for a range of offences from horse worrying to eating cherries on the Sabbath.

Instead, they face charges of criminal mischief, punishable by up to two years in the penitentiary.

Three of the five are key members of the crypto cracking project distributed.net founded in 1997, which boasts tens of thousands of users. The 'firing line' lists the group's leaders as Daniel "dbaker" Baker, Network Operations, David "nugget" McNett, Statistics, and Jeff "Bovine" Lawson, who wrote the code for the proxy. The non-profit org.founded in 1997 in response to the RSA Lab's RC5 cracking challange. Thousands of PCs each process a portion of the code required to crack they key. ®

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