Andrew Auernheimer, known online as “weev,” partied with journalists and sent dozens of tweets this weekend as he enjoyed his release from prison after an appeals court overturned his conviction for hacking AT&T Inc.
Auernheimer was let go late on April 11 from the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex in Pennsylvania, after a three-judge panel ruled his Newark, New Jersey, trial was held in the wrong state. Now, he wants the U.S. Justice Department to throw out an indictment charging him with identity fraud and conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
“The indictment needs to be dismissed immediately,” Auernheimer’s attorney, Tor Ekeland, said today. “We still have an extremely strong case on the substantive issue, and my client is more than happy to litigate it again. We’ll bring a lot more firepower to this issue than we did when we started this case and were working out of a closet.”
U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton, who oversaw Auernheimer’s trial and sentenced him to 41 months in March 2013, ordered his release from Allenwood on bail. The case became a rallying point among digital-freedom advocates who said the Justice Department overstepped its authority in charging him under the CFAA, the main anti-hacking law.
“It was a wild weekend,” Ekeland said.
Auernheimer attended a party in New York with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the journalists who won the Polk Award for national security reporting based on material from the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, Ekeland said. Greenwald and Poitras returned to the U.S. for the first time since the Snowden story broke last year.
Auernheimer used Twitter to chronicle his first days out of prison.
“My desire to catch up for lost tweeting is insatiable and robs me of my slumber,” he posted on April 12.
“Omg I missed Korean BBQ so much,” he wrote in a posting accompanying a photo of a dinner spread.
Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney in New Jersey who prosecuted the case, is reviewing the options, said Matthew Reilly, a spokesman for his office.
Auernheimer was convicted of conspiracy to gain access to AT&T’s servers without authorization and of identity theft. Prosecutors said his associate Daniel Spitler breached AT&T servers and stole e-mail addresses of more than 114,000 users of Apple Inc.’s iPad. Auernheimer shared the data with the website Gawker. AT&T plugged the hole and apologized to customers.
Auernheimer e-mailed iPad users at news organizations to say he had “stolen” identification numbers for their addresses and he “would be happy to discuss the method of theft.” Spitler pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution. He described how he carried out his attack by writing computer code to generate iPad identification numbers.
Auernheimer told jurors that the information was public and that he never considered what he did stealing. At trial, he said he used the words like “theft” as “rhetoric and hyperbole” to “sensationalize” the story.
In its ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said the while the case raised “complex and novel issues that are of great public importance in our increasingly interconnected age,” its decision turned on venue -- the proper place for a defendant to be tried.
The appeals panel said the case was improperly brought in New Jersey because Auernheimer was in Fayetteville, Arkansas, while Spitler was in San Francisco and the computer servers they hacked were in Dallas and Atlanta.
The case is U.S. v. Auernheimer, 13-1816, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Philadelphia).