BRIDGEPORT — A Chicago anarchist once described as "an electronic Robin Hood" is lashing out at prosecutors following his guilty plea for hacking a defense contractor, saying that federal authorities "stacked the charges with inflated damages figures."
Jeremy Hammond, 28, says on his website that if he had gone through with the federal trial in New York, "I would likely have been shipped across the country to face new but similar charges in a different district.
"The process might have repeated indefinitely. Ultimately I decided that the most practical route was to accept this plea with a maximum of a ten-year sentence and immunity from prosecution in every federal court," said Hammond, who pleaded guilty Tuesday to hacking into the Texas-based intelligence contractor, Strategic Forecasting Inc.
Hammond, along with his twin brother Jason, is a frequent participant in Chicago protests.
He was once charged with setting fire to an Olympics banner in Daley Plaza and has been arrested for barging into a North Side suburban restaurant to confront a Holocaust denier. He also spent time in prison for earlier hacking activities.
Born in suburban Glendale Heights, Hammond was a computer prodigy, reportedly programming video games at the age of eight. He was also an activist at a young age, organizing a walkout at his high school in opposition to the Iraq War. Supporters have described him as "an electronic Robin Hood" who dressed in second-hand clothes and found food in dumpsters.
His mother once told the Tribune: "I love my son, but he is a genius with no brain. He has a 168 IQ, but he has no wisdom."
Hammond, who also goes by the name “Anarchaos,” pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to conspiracy to engage in computer hacking for his role in the December 2011 hack of Strategic Forecasting, said Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
That hacking affected some 860,000 people, Bharara said. Hammond also admitted being involved in hacking into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Virtual Academy, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association and the Jefferson County, Alabama Sheriff’s Office, said Bharara.
“While he billed himself as fighting for an anarchist cause, in reality, Jeremy Hammond caused personal and financial chaos for individuals whose identities and money he took and for companies whose businesses he decided he didn’t like," Bharara said in a statement.
"He was nothing more than a repeat offender cybercriminal who thought that because of his computer savvy he was above the law that binds and protects all of us."
On his website, Hammond said it was "a relief" to admit he worked with the group Anonymous to hack various agencies and companies.
"I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors. I did what I believe is right. ... I believe in the power of truth," Hammond said.
In addition to 10 years in prison, Hammond faces fines of up to $2.5 million when he is sentenced on Sept. 6.
His twin, Jason Hammond, has launched an online petition, saying that his brother has already been incarcerated for 15 months and should be sentenced to time served.
"My brother is a dedicated activist and gifted computer programmer. He has a heart of gold. He has never walked past a person suffering without reaching to help them. He is 28 years old and has a lot of living to do and many brilliant contributions to make," Jason Hammond wrote. "He is my best friend. And I want him back."
Jeremy Hammond was arrested in a March 2012 FBI raid at an apartment in the 2900 block of South Quinn Street in Bridgeport.