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US prosecutors drop hyperlink charges against Barrett Brown

A little sanity returns to the world

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US federal prosecutors have moved to withdraw all but six of the seventeen charges levelled against Barrett Brown.

Brown has been fighting charges that he trafficked in data that was stolen in the Stratfor hack. The most controversial of the charges were that he had committed a crime by sharing a hyperlink to a file containing data (including credit card numbers) copied from Stratfor by the original attackers.

Prosecutors had hoped to load up Brown's charges on the basis that copying a hyperlink from wikisend.com from the Anonops IRC to his own channel constituted a crime.

Brown's lawyers had filed this motion (PDF) dated March 5 for the hyperlinking charges to be dropped on First Amendment grounds. His defence team also asserted that the prosecutors made an error of fact in the indictment: they had alleged that Brown was involved in transferring “authentication features” (that is, credit card data). The defence argued that the indictment failed to allege that he transferred anything other than a hyperlink.

For those following the case closely, the charges dismissed are count 1 and counts 3-12 of the Superseding Indictment against Brown. The prosecutors' motion doesn't explain why the prosecutors have backed away from the controversial charges.

Prosecutors are still pursuing charges that Brown committed fraud in relation to the Stratfor hack, that he attempted to hide laptops containing evidence, that he threatened an FBI officer in a YouTube video, and that he published information about the FBI officer and his family. ®

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