A US federal judge has refused to dismiss some of the key evidence against a former Reuters journalist accused of giving hackers from the Anonymous collective access to a Tribune Company website and encouraging them to deface it.
Matthew Keys, 26, had asked the court to throw out his confession because he had taken antidepressant medication before speaking with police, and was therefore unable to adequately decide if he should have waived his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Keys also said that police violated the terms of their search warrant by examining his personal computer for more evidence.
Keys was a social media editor at Reuters when he was indicted last year. He allegedly spent time in an online chat room frequented by members of Anonymous and, in the midst of an exchange, gave them his username and password to the Tribune Company while advising them to “go f**k some shit up.” A hacker then used the log-in information to change a headline on the Los Angeles Times’ website.
He has argued that investigators were wrong to seize his laptop and external hard drives, with Wired reporting his attorney asserted that the warrant was unconstitutionally vague and allowed detectives to look through more of his files than necessary.
Jay Leiderman, Keys’ defense attorney, told journalist Kim Zetter that police could have easily searched Keys’ computer and external hard drives for the names of the Anonymous hackers he supposedly corresponded with.
“They can go to a search window and type in and search the whole computer for ‘Kayla’ or ‘Sabu’ or ‘Sharpie,’ and they can find out where all the info they want is and walk off with a thumb drive, preserving the other information,” he said. “The fact that they didn’t do that, and a year and a half later are still in possession of his computer makes this search unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
Yet both of his requests were denied by US District Judge Kimberly Mueller. She ruled that Keys is suspected of committing these crimes on his own computer and that police were within their rights to seize it.
The government has used an earlier case, in which authorities seized and analyzed a pornographer’s entire computer to find evidence, as a precedent for Keys’ case.
Mueller also wrote that there was no evidence that Keys was affected by any drugs and that during the interrogation he was “rational, articulate, cooperative, and polite.”
Police say that during an interview at his home at the end of 2012, Keys “admitted to his involvement in the hacking of the LA Times, and to sending a series of disparaging, sometimes threatening emails,” to the company, Wired reported.
The former social media editor was reportedly more vocal about being the subject of headlines.
“My concern is this eventually getting out there under my name, um, and I know that there are ways that, you know, like calling me a cooperating witness, or, something like that,” he said at one point during the conversation. “There’s, whatever in your ability to minimize…the impact.”
In part because of remarks like this, Mueller said that “no part of the transcript suggests defendant was so affected by Trazodone or his abrupt awakening that he was incapable of waiving his rights. Defendant was also given the choice to conduct the interview elsewhere, but he chose to stay in his home…even if defendant felt compelled to confess because of Trazodone’s effects, the absence of evidence of police overreaching dooms his attempt to suppress his statements.”