Anonymous Hacktivist Barrett Brown Can Use Money His Supporters Raised for His Defense

Barrett Brown's had a rough few months, each one a little worse than the last.

In September, he was raided, arrested and ultimately charged with threatening an FBI agent on YouTube and Twitter. In December the feds threw some more charges at him, this time for sharing a link related to the hack of security firm Stratfor. In January, they added a few more, for concealing evidence. Then they charged his mom with obstructing the execution of a search warrant, an offense for which she faces up to 12 months in prison and a fine of $100,000.

See also: - Is Anonymous Hacktivist Barrett Brown a Journalist? His Supporters Say So - Is Barrett Brown the Threatening One, or Is It the Guys Who Locked Him Up?

Then the court took notice of his defense team, the folks over at Free Barrett Brown. Specifically, the court noticed in mid-April that FBB had managed to raise some $20,000 toward Brown's defense. Brown had been represented up until that point by a court-appointed attorney, Doug Morris. Judge Sam Lindsay ordered that all the cash immediately be placed into an account controlled by the court, to determine whether the money should be used toward repaying Morris. None of the money could be touched without the go-ahead from the judge.

In the meantime, Brown took on a newer, flashier defense team, as The Dallas Morning News reported at the time, made up of retired Navy Lieutenant and Guantanamo detainee attorney Charles Swift and cyber-security attorney Ahmed Ghappour, who also teaches at the the National Security Clinic at the UT Law School in Austin.

In a small victory for Brown, Judge Lindsay ruled yesterday that Brown can use the money FBB has raised to pay them, and that he's not required to keep his appointed public defender.

The judge argued that letting Brown cut the public defender loose and use his preferred legal team would actually end up saving the taxpayers money, writing in his ruling, "It would be a substantial drain on the resources of the Federal Public Defender to continue to represent Mr. Brown in light of the fact his retained counsel are doing much of the work pro bono."

So Brown can use the defense team he's chosen, and pay them whatever they're actually charging him with his defense fund money. Although his lawyers are apparently doing some of the work for free, Free Barrett Brown tweeted last night, "All contributions are appreciated -- we have a LONG way to go in order to cover legal expenses!"

With all that taken care of, all Brown's got to worry about is a potential 100 or so years in prison. Piece of cake.

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Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan