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October 25, 2012

Cyberthreatener pleads guilty

One of two men charged with posting threats against the University via YouTube has pleaded guilty and his alleged co-conspirator is scheduled to change his not guilty plea next month.

Brett Hudson, 26, of Hillsboro, Ohio, initially pleaded not guilty  to a conspiracy charge in a Sept. 6 arraignment in federal court in Pittsburgh. (See Sept. 13 University Times.) However, Hudson changed his plea to guilty Oct. 18 before Judge Joy Flowers Conti.

The felony conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

Hudson was released pending a Feb. 8 sentencing hearing under the same terms and conditions of his existing bond, which include monitoring of his computer and Internet usage.

Alexander Waterland, 24, of Loveland, Ohio, a former coworker of Hudson, was arrested June 20 and charged with interstate threats/extortion and interstate extortion involving a protected computer. He pleaded not guilty but court documents filed Oct. 19 indicate a change of plea hearing is set for Nov. 15.

The charges against the two men stem from a YouTube video posted in late April — ostensibly by members of the hacktivist group Anonymous — that threatened to release confidential information purportedly stolen from University computer servers unless Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg posted on the Pitt home page an apology for not protecting the data.

Prosecutors allege that the men also used email and Twitter to convey the threat to University administrators.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen said government prosecutors were prepared to prove that Hudson sent Waterland a link to student and faculty data on a University server, which Waterland allegedly downloaded on April 25.

On April 26 “anonoperative13” posted the YouTube video and on May 2 gave University administrators until May 6 to post the apology.

The threats came less than a week after 10 weeks of hoax bomb threats to the Pittsburgh campus ceased. The last of those threats came April 21.

Scottish nationalist Adam Busby of Dublin, Ireland, was indicted in August in connection with more than 40 of the emailed hoaxes. (See Aug. 30 University Times.)

Waterland and Hudson have not been charged in relation to those threats.

Hudson’s attorney, Werner Mariani, labeled his client a “good guy” who had made one mistake, adding that Hudson had been cooperative since his arrest.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 45 Issue 5

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