Wikileaks has claimed a “largely victorious” legal result for hackers accused of attacking PayPal in December 2010.
In a statement, Wikileaks praised the “PayPal 14” for a significant victory on, beating felony convictions and jail time. WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange said: “When I first heard about these protests against the financial censorship of WikiLeaks I was in prison, and this expression of popular will lifted my spirits.
“I know first-hand how grinding years of court cases can be, but also the pleasure in standing up for what you believe in. I encourage everyone to do what they can to help the PayPal 14 and others to get back on their feet as they clear these hurdles.”
The story began on December 6th 2010, when following PayPal’s decision to permanently restrict the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of its acceptable use policy, members of the hacktivist group Anonymous led a massive distributed denial-of-service (DdoS) attack on the website.
The next day, 7th December, Assange was remanded to prison and attacks continued against PayPal and a number of US financial services giants including Visa, MasterCard, Bank of America and Western Union.
In these efforts, more than 1,000 people took part and a number of the attackers, who Wikileaks called “protesters”, were identified and charged by US authorities. One group was known as the “PayPal 14” and appeared in court last week.
The group pleaded guilty to one felony charge and one misdemeanour charge under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in December 2013. However Stanley Cohen, a defence attorney for Mercedes Haefer, one of the accused, claimed that the actions were acts of civil disobedience in political dissent, adding that he thought that the acts were free speech protected by First Amendment, comparing the attacks to the digital ‘sit-in’ to protests organised by the civil rights movement.
Saying that the terms of the plea deal were reached “based upon strength, not weakness; based upon principle, not acquiescence”, Cohen said: “It did not involve cooperation and did not involve any of the defendants renouncing their conduct. They all stood up and said: ’We did what you said we did… We believe it was an appropriate act from us and we’re willing to pay the price’.”
In the case, the Court readily approved their dropping of the felony Computer Fraud and Abuse Act charge of conspiring to intentionally damage a protected computer, according to the Cryptosphere.
Anonymous-affiliated website freeanons sent congratulations to the members of PayPal 14. “To the members of the PayPal 14 group who had their felonies dropped today; you are strong activists and all who know you are proud of your commitment and determination in seeing this ordeal to its completion,” it said. “Yo
u have been an amazing team and an inspiration to so many.
“They have suffered a seemingly never-ending judicial challenge in an effort to demonstrate the validity of online protest and stood directly in the cross-hairs of a system who sought to make examples of them.”