Hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday for hacking into global intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting in December 2011.
The self-described "hacktivist" was handed down the maximum sentence in Manhattan federal court by Chief US District Judge Loretta A. Preska for his role in the massive Stratfor hack and other hacks. In May, Hammond pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act -- which lowered his potential sentence from a maximum of 35 years to 10 years.
"Yes I broke the law, but I believe sometimes laws must be broken in order to make room for change," Hammond said in his sentencing statement, according to The Associated Press. He added, "I still believe in hacktivism as a form of civil disobedience."
During the hack, Hammond, who had joined up with worldwide hacker group Anonymous, downloaded more than 5 million e-mails -- which were published by WikiLeaks as the "Global Intelligence Files" -- between Stratfor and its bevy of big-name clients. The e-mails revealed that Stratfor was hired by companies and government agencies to compile information on activists and infiltrate activist communities. Anonymous also published 860,000 e-mail addresses and 75,000 unencrypted credit card numbers on the Web, and it made at least $700,000 worth of unauthorized charges to credit card accounts stolen in the hack.
Supporters of Hammond had hoped for a shorter sentence. More than 250 letters were submitted to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York expressing support for Hammond, and more than 4,000 signed an online petition asking that he be sentenced for time served. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which also submitted a letter to the court, said ordering the maximum sentence of 10 years was too harsh.
"We're very disappointed," Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney for the EFF, said in a statement to CNET. "We think 10 years is way too long."
The US government, on the other hand, argued that Hammond was a repeat offender and that prosecuting cybercriminals is a top priority.
"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," US Attorney Preet 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."
Hammond, 28, was arrested along with several other hackers in March 2012 after being exposed by Hector Xavier Monsegur, aka "Sabu," leader of hacking team Lulzsec. While the authorities were going after hackers in the Lulzsec hacking group at the time, they also picked up Hammond who was part of an Anonymous-affiliated hacktivist group called Antisec.
Update, 11:53 p.m. PT: Adds statement from US Attorney Preet Bharara and additional background.