Last week, attorneys for imprisoned author, activist and journalist Barrett Brown asked the court that they be able to reply to arguments made earlier this month by federal prosecutors in the case against their client — a 32-year-old Dallas, TX man expected to stand trial in May to face several felony counts, including making internet threats, retaliating against a federal official, fraud, identity theft and concealment of evidence. Brown has been in the custody of law enforcement since being arrested in September 2012.
Of argument, his attorneys wrote in the Feb. 21 filing, are statements the prosecution made earlier this month when they replied to a January 31 motion in which the defense asked the court to dismiss one of three indictments against Brown.
The government predictably opposed the defense’s request two weeks later on Feb. 14, but — like much of the nearly two-year-old case— that paperwork is not included among the publicly available files hosted on the online, federal PACER court system, which supporters of Brown presume means it was filed under seal. Whatever its contents, though, the prosecution’s filing compelled the defense to request permission from the court to respond. Now according to that latest, public document, information about the prosecution’s case — as well as their secret interpretation of Anonymous — is widely available.
According to the newest motion, it’s now known that the government wrote in response that Brown’s “past association with Anonymous is crucial to understanding the significance of his threatening comments and conduct,” all but equating the hacktivist group with a streetgang capable of causing immense fear in a public official — in this case, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent-in-Charge Robert Smith, whom Brown berated in a series of videos uploaded to YouTube shortly before his September 2012 arrest.
But the government hasn’t establish a connection between Anonymous and “any form of violent conduct,” the defense fired back last week, nor was Brown ever accused of conspiring with the group to carry out the alleged threats.
“[T]he government alleges no meaningful nexus between an association with Anonymous and any form of violent conduct,” the defense argued. “Nor is Mr. Brown charged as a ‘member’ of ‘Anonymous.’ Nor does the Indictment allege any conspiracy between Mr. Brown and ‘Anonymous,’ let alone one to threaten the physical assault of [Smith]. Nor does the government allege that Mr. Brown’s affiliation with ‘Anonymous’ … was in any way violent in nature, or that he conveyed such information to [Smith].”
“As such, the government fails to show a reasonable basis upon which a juror could find that ‘Anonymous’ was a violent group or partook in violent activities.”
Quoting from the prosecution’s paperwork, the defense says the government believes Brown and Anonymous “secretly plotted the overthrow of the government.”
A tweet posted by Brown before his arrest and cited in the first criminal indictment includes one where he encouraged followers to overthrow the US government. That tweet though — likely the impetus for the prosecution’s latest claims—should likely be taken with a grain of salt. In it Brown concluded his alleged plea with the internet abbreviation “lol” and then linked to a music video of 80s rock group Blondie.
“This is exactly the type of political hyperbole that the First Amendment was meant to protect,” the defense counsel lashed back with.
“The government is aware that they can’t succeed in convicting Brown for his speech, so in order to prevent a just dismissal of the charges they are implying his guilt by association,” the group Free Barrett Brown responded in a statement published on Wednesday.
“This is not just preposterous, as the majority of Anonymous are citizens engaged in ordinary, constitutionally-protected political expression, but lays bare the cartoon level of ridiculousness that has been the hallmark of this prosecution,” added the support group, which has raised roughly $85,000 for Brown since he was first imprisoned.