Thomson Reuters Corp. fired Matthew Keys as a social-media editor, a month after he was accused by federal prosecutors of conspiring with the hacker group Anonymous to break into a Tribune Co.-owned website.
Keys announced the move in a Twitter posting, saying, “Reuters has fired me, effective today. Our union will be filing a grievance.” David Girardin, a spokesman for Thomson Reuters, confirmed that Keys is no longer with the company.
On March 14, the Justice Department charged Keys with providing log-in credentials to Anonymous members for a computer server belonging to Tribune Co. Prosecutors said Keys, formerly the Web producer for KTXL Fox 40 in Sacramento, California, encouraged Anonymous members to deface the website.
Since the indictment, Keys has continued to be active on Twitter, posting links and comments dozens of times a day.
“He’s fired before he has the opportunity to file a not-guilty plea,” said his attorney Jay Leiderman, who called the timing of Keys’s dismissal suspicious. Keys, who will be arraigned tomorrow in federal court in Sacramento, does plan to plead not guilty, Leiderman said.
“He’s a good journalist and he didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.
The Justice Department said last month that a hacker used Keys’s credentials to log into a Tribune Co. server and make changes to the Web version of a story run by the Los Angeles Times, which is owned by the same company. Keys, after allegedly trying to help the hacker when he was initially unsuccessful with the log-in, learned that he made changes to content on the site and wrote “nice” in an Internet chat room, according to the Justice Department. He was terminated by Fox 40 in 2010.
Keys, who was hired by Reuters last year, wasn't yet working at the agency during the time of the events described in his indictment.
Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, competes with New York-based Thomson Reuters in providing financial news and information.
The case is U.S. v. Keys, 13-cr-00082, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California (Sacramento).