Hacking Verdict Overturned on Appeal

Monday, April 14, 2014 @ 07:04 PM gHale

A U.S. federal appeals court has vacated the conviction and sentence received by Andrew “weev” Auernheimer for the AT&T iPad hack.

Auernheimer received a sentence to spend 41 months in prison for his role in the harvesting and publishing emails and AT&T authentication IDs of 114,000 early-adopters of Apple’s iPad in 2010. Among the compromised accounts and email addresses were those of high-profile military officials, politicians, and chief executives.

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At the time, Auernheimer and his co-defendant Daniel Spitler argued they first tried to warn AT&T about the security hole that allowed them to harvest the information in question. After the company ignored them, they publicized the fact via Gawker in order to push AT&T to solve the problem.

They also pointed out that they didn’t make the harvested information public.

After both ended up charged, Spitler pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to computers and one count of identity theft in 2011, and received three years probation.

Auernheimer, on the other hand, went on to battle the charges in court, ended up being found guilty and received the sentenced in March 2013 by a New Jersey federal court, despite the fact he lived in Arkansas, and the servers he and Spitler accessed were in Texas and Georgia.

And, as it turned out, it is the issue that made the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacate the conviction.

“Although this appeal raises a number of complex and novel issues that are of great public importance in our increasingly interconnected age, we find it necessary to reach only one that has been fundamental since our country’s founding: Venue,” the judges said.

“Venue in criminal cases is more than a technicality; it involves ‘matters that touch closely the fair administration of criminal justice and public confidence in it,’” the judges said in their opinion. “This is especially true of computer crimes in the era of mass interconnectivity. Because we conclude that venue did not lie in New Jersey, we will reverse the District Court’s venue determination and vacate Auernheimer’s conviction.”

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