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“Battling Scientology” Follow-Up October 25, 2008

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The Phoenix, 24 October 2008

Depending on whom you ask, Massachusetts-based protest organizer Gregg Housh had a major victory – or a significant loss – in Boston Municipal Court this Wednesday. As reported in The Phoenix this past week in the feature “Battling Scientology,” Housh faced charges of harassment, disturbing the peace, and disturbing religious worship for his involvement with the picket group Anonymous and his actions against the Boston Church of Scientology.

According to an Anonymous press statement that circulated earlier this afternoon: “On October 22nd Boston Municipal Court dismissed the charge of criminal harassment against ‘Anonymous’ anti-Scientology activist Gregg Housh, pending an order for the two parties to not approach each other.”

Boston Church of Scientology attorney Marc LaCasse was quick to comment that Housh did not get off so easily. “Gregg Housh – under oath – admitted that the [evidence presented against him] was true. The document he signed is called ‘admission to sufficient facts.’ If it doesn’t get any clearer than that…”

Legally speaking, charges against Housh were not technically dismissed. Instead he agreed to a Continuance without a Finding (CWOF), which the Massachusetts Criminal Defense Resource Page explains as: “Under Massachusetts Criminal Laws, agreeing to a Continuance without a Finding is not the same as pleading guilty. Technically, it is an admission that “there are sufficient facts to find you guilty” of the charges. Pleading to a CWOF will happen at a pre-trial conference as part of a plea agreement, if your attorney can get the prosecutor to agree.” (For more about the legal side see this article from Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly).

The good news is that all parties seem to be happy with the outcome. At least for now, it appears that Housh – who was placed on one year probation and who faces one year in prison if he enters within 100 yards of the Boston Church of Scientology on Beacon Street – avoided what promised to be a lengthy trial. On the other side, LaCasse says the outcome works for him: “My client simply wanted to be left alone.”

New Cyberbullying Study October 25, 2008

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21st Century Sheep, October 2008

A new study out of the University of California in Los Angeles finds cyberbullying is more common than previously thought. Almost 75% of teens reported some cyberbullying during the prior 12 months. The most common type of bullying was name calling. That didn’t surprise me, but the second most common type did. The second most common tactic was password theft. If someone steals or guesses your password they can send email in your name, visit websites and make it look like it was you, or edit an online profile and post untrue and unflattering information.

SCIENTOLOGY PROTESTER’S CASE CONTINUED WITHOUT FINDING October 23, 2008

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Suffolk District Attorney, 22 Oct 2008

A Boston Municipal Court judge today continued for one year the case against a Woburn man alleged to have disturbed proceedings at the Back Bay Church of Scientology earlier this year, and will dismiss the case if the defendant abides by certain conditions during that time.

Judge Thomas C. Horgan imposed a one-year continuance without a finding in the case against GREGG HOUSH (D.O.B. 10/17/76), who had been charged with disturbing an assembly of worship and disturbing the peace. If Housh stays away from the Back Bay headquarters of the Church of Scientology and its expected new headquarters in Boston’s South End, and if he does not re-offend in any other manner, those charges will be dismissed. If he does not abide by those terms, Housh’s case could be put back on track for trial.

Also in today’s proceedings, Suffolk prosecutors affirmatively moved to dismiss an additional charge of criminal harassment against Housh. After a review of the evidence, prosecutors determined they could not meet their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt on this charge and could not in good faith move forward with it. Had the case gone to trial, prosecutors would have introduced evidence and testimony to show that Housh and others entered the Church of Scientology’s Beacon Street building in a boisterous manner during a March 1 protest, disturbing the proceedings and alarming those inside. Attorney Michael Dlott represented Housh.

Teen admits to Scientology attack October 23, 2008

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Legalbrief Today, 22 Oct 2008

A teenager hacker has admitted carrying out a cyber attack that crashed Church of Scientology Web sites as part of a campaign by a mysterious underground group.

According to a report on the News24 site, Dmitriy Guzner, of New Jersey, will plead guilty to computer hacking for his role in launching a distributed denial of service attack against Scientology sites earlier this year, the Justice Department said. According to information filed in Federal Court in Los Angeles, Guzner described himself as a member of a shadowy Internet-based group known as ‘Anonymous’ that has carried out a series of protests against Scientology.

Lori Drew’s lawyers seek to toss cyber-bully case October 22, 2008

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TradingMarkets.com, 21 Oct 2008

Lawyers representing Lori Drew, the mother who is accused of using the social networking site MySpace to help cyber-bully a teen who then killed herself, filed a motion Monday seeking to throw out the indictment against her.

Prosecutors said Drew and others schemed in 2006 to humiliate Megan Meier, 13, a neighbor in Dardenne Prairie, using a fake teenage boy’s identity on MySpace.

Megan was first a friend, then a “rival” of Drew’s daughter, prosecutors have said.

Federal and state prosecutors in the St. Louis area said they found no charge to apply against Drew, but the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, where MySpace is based, obtained indictments accusing her of one count of conspiracy and three counts of illegally accessing protected computers.

Prosecutors say Drew violated MySpace’s terms of service, which prohibit lying when registering, soliciting information from someone under 18 and harassing other users.

In the motion filed Monday, her attorneys argue that the government must do more than simply allege that the terms of service were violated.

“The fatal flaw in the government’s case is that MySpace knew perfectly well at all time exactly what it was doing,” the motion says. “MySpace knew that it was providing an account to users who might or might not comply with the Terms of Service. Most users violate Terms of Service frequently, as MySpace is surely aware.”

Drew’s attorneys also argue that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which Drew is accused of violating, should not be used to punish “everything bad that happens on the Internet.” They also contend the indictment should be tossed because no theft was committed and the law Drew is being charged under requires a theft, as well as that recent legislation implies the law does not apply when the defendant and victim are in the same state.

It was not clear late Monday when a judge could rule on the motion.

Indian IT worker arrested for email threats to president October 20, 2008

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Computerworld, 20 Oct 2008

A software professional working at Indian outsourcer Infosys Technologies was arrested by the police in Chennai in south India after he was found to have sent threatening email messages to the country’s President, Pratibha Patil. J. Sriram, a 24-year-old engineering graduate working as a programmer at Infosys’ operation in Chennai, told police that he was generally dissatisfied with the political situation in the country, M. Sudhakar, Assistant Commissioner of Police of Chennai’s Cyber Crime Cell said on Friday.

Sriram said that for all the political problems in the country, the politicians were responsible, Sudhakar said.

About 16 email messages that he sent to the President on Oct. 11 and Oct. 12 were more than expressions of disaffection with the political system in the country, and had very threatening content, Sudhakar said.

On a tip from the police in Delhi, who tracked down the IP (Internet Protocol) address from which the email messages were sent, Sriram was arrested and charged on a number of counts, including intimidation and use of obscene language.

NEW JERSEY MAN CHARGED WITH ATTACKING CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY WEBSITES IN THE NAME OF ‘ANONYMOUS’ October 18, 2008

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United States Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

Thom Mrozek
Public Affairs Officer

October 17, 2008

NEW JERSEY MAN CHARGED WITH ATTACKING CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY WEBSITES IN THE NAME OF ‘ANONYMOUS’

LOS ANGELES – A New Jersey man was charged today for his role in an attack on Church of Scientology websites in January 2008 that rendered the websites unavailable.

Dmitriy Guzner, 18, of Verona, New Jersey, has agreed to plead guilty to computer hacking for his role in the distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack against the Scientology websites. A DDOS attack occurs where a large amount of malicious Internet traffic is directed at a website or a set of websites. The target websites are unable to handle the high volume of Internet traffic and therefore become unavailable to legitimate users trying to reach the sites.

According to the criminal information filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles, Guzner participated in the attack because he considered himself a member of an underground group called “Anonymous.”  “Anonymous” has led protests against the Church of Scientology at various locations across the country, and in January 2008 posted a video on YouTube which announced a new offensive against Scientology.

Once he pleads guilty, which is expected to take place in the coming weeks in federal court in New Jersey, Guzner faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force in Los Angeles. The agencies involved in the investigation were the United States Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation.

#####

Release No. 08-140 – original here: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/cac/pressroom/pr2008/140.html

‘Anonymous’ Member Unmasked, Charged With Web Attack on Scientology October 18, 2008

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Wired Blog, 17 Oct 2008

An 18-year-old New Jersey man agreed to plead guilty to federal computer hacking charges Friday for participating in a denial-of-service attack against Church of Scientology websites, as part of collective of online troublemakers known as “Anonymous.”

Dmitriy Guzner is charged with a single felony count of unauthorized impairment of a protected computer for the January distributed denial-of-service attack. He faces a likely sentence of 12 to 18 months in prison based on stipulations in his plea agreement, which also obliges him to pay $37,500 in restitution. (more)

Wikipedia (watch for accuracy…) on Stevenson High School Terrorist Threat October 18, 2008

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adlai_E._Stevenson_High_School_District_125

Bombing threat

On October 30, 2007, two students, Jeremie Dalin, 17 and Dennis Oh, 17, posted a threat against Stevenson High School on the 4chan website.[7][8][9][10] Oh made a screenshot or photograph of the threat and then created a web page dedicated to the threat.[11][12] The FBI traced the message, Dalin’s home address, when contacted by the authorities he claimed it was a bad joke and did not intend on harming anyone.[13] The threat caused approximately 500 students to miss a school day, which happened to be Halloween. Dalin was due back in court in February.[14]

In an article published in the Daily Herald on June 12, 2008, Jeremie Dalin was convicted “for falsely making a terrorist threat” and faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced in mid-July.[15]

Lawyer: 2nd teenager may be linked to MySpace hoax October 16, 2008

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Huffington Post, 20 Oct 2008

The teenager who committed suicide after an Internet hoax was not the only girl exchanging messages with a fake MySpace address allegedly operated by a woman now charged in the girl’s death, the woman’s lawyer said.

Attorney Dean Steward filed a request in federal court for the phone records of a second teenage girl identified by the initials “S.D.”

His client, Lori Drew, of O’Fallon, Mo., is accused of helping to create a false-identity account on the social networking site, posing as a teenage boy and befriending her 13-year-old neighbor, Megan Meier.

Prosecutors say Megan hanged herself in 2006 after receiving messages from Drew on the fake account saying the world would be better off without her. Megan was being treated for attention deficit disorder and depression.

In his motion, Steward seeks the phone records to prove that prosecutors mistakenly linked Megan to a message that S.D. actually sent to the fake account.

Prosecutors have said the message _ listed in the Drew indictment as “Overt Act 9” _ was sent by Megan because she was induced by Drew to flirt with the fictitious boy.

Steward criticized the government for poor research and said S.D.’s e-mail address was on the message.

(more)

Tennessee College Students Indicted In Palin Hacking October 11, 2008

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eCanada now

Washington (ECN) – 20-year old David Kernell has been indicted for hacking into the e-mail account of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

The U.S. Justice Department announced on Wednesday that the 20-year old has been indicted, and has since turned himself into authorities.

He is now set to appear before a U.S. judge, where he faces a $250,000 fine, as well as 5 years in prison if convicted.

The indictment states that Kernell hacked into the e-mail account of Palin back on September 16th.

He used the password reset feature to gain access to the Yahoo e-mail account.

He then posted some of the contents of the account, along with the password on an online message board.

The information was published on the site 4chan.org, according to the indictment.

The 20-year old is the son of Democratic state legislator Mike Kernell, and went by the online name rubico.

Lori Drew trial may start Nov. 18 October 8, 2008

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8 Oct 2008

The criminal case against Lori Drew, accused of helping to cyber-bully a St. Louis area teen who then killed herself, appears to be headed for a November trial date, court documents filed Monday suggest.

(full story)

New Cyberbulllying Suit says Internet harassment put teenage girl into psychiatric care October 8, 2008

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St. Louis Post Dispatch, 8 Oct 2008

Clayton — The father of a teenage girl says in a lawsuit that a cyber bully so unnerved her with online taunts that she ended up admitted to a mental health clinic.

The 16-year-old girl is not named in the suit, in St. Louis County Circuit Court in Clayton. Her father’s lawyer, Joe Jacobson, said the identity of the defendant is not known with certainty.

The suit seeks reimbursement for medical expenses in excess of $25,000 and asks that a judge order the Internet social network Facebook and Web portal Live.com to provide information about who sent the messages.

The circumstances are reminiscent of the case of Megan Meier, 13, of Dardenne Prairie, who hanged herself in 2006 after a fictitious boyfriend turned against her in MySpace correspondence.

Lori Drew, the mother of a former friend of Megan’s, is expected to be tried in November in regard to that incident on federal charges of conspiracy and accessing MySpace computers without authorization.

Megan’s death prompted Missouri to create a new crime of Internet harassment, a felony for people over 21 and a misdemeanor for those younger.

The girl in the case Jacobson filed had already undergone outpatient treatment for 22 days in June and July for a psychiatric condition characterized, in part, by an obsessive relationship with a teenage boy, the suit said.

Someone using the fictitious name “Jennifer Litzinger” then created the Facebook account “for the purpose of creating a purported rival” for the boy’s affections, the suit alleges.

Asked about the identity of “Litzinger,” Jacobson said: “There are suspicions. We want good evidence that points firmly at somebody before we proceed.”

The lawsuit says “Litzinger” used a photo “of a well-endowed and attractive model or actress of the approximate age of 20 to 22 obtained over the Internet as her profile photograph so that (the victim), an ordinary attractive 16-year-old, would feel inferior to her purported rival with respect to her physical attractiveness.”

The suit also says that on the day before the teen was to finish outpatient treatment in July, she got multiple communications from “Litzinger.” Those said “Litzinger” had been talking and texting with the boyfriend every day and night, was more attractive than the teen, and that the teen “looked like a troll” and had “a worthless life.”

According to the suit, “Litzinger” knew the teen “would be severely emotionally distressed by the statements.”

The teen was taken to St. John’s Mercy Medical Center for a four-day admission to stabilize her condition, the suit says, and then she entered the Menninger Residential Clinic in Houston, where she remained until Sept. 16.

Her father, who lives in west St. Louis County, declined through his lawyer to comment to a reporter. The suit was filed Sept. 19.

The girl “is doing much better since Texas, but she is still very, very fragile,” Jacobson said.

Oregon Shield Law Protects Anonymous Commenter October 8, 2008

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Citizen Media Law Project, 8 Oct 2008

Last week, an Oregon state judge ruled that Oregon’s media shield law, found at Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 44.510 to 44.540, protected the identity of an anonymous commenter who posted allegedly defamatory statements on the Portland Mercury and Willamette Week websites.

According to the Portland Mercury, staff writer Amy Ruiz wrote a post in January 2008 about Portland mayoral candidate Sho Dozono. In the comments section, a site user going by “Ronald” posted negative comments about Dozono’s ties to a local businessman, Terry Beard. The same commenter allegedly posted similar statements on the Willamette Week site. Beard filed a motion to compel the two online newspapers to give up “Ronald’s” IP address before an Oregon state court. The two competitors teamed up to oppose the discovery request and won.

Interestingly, Judge James E. Redman of Clackamas County Court did not treat “Ronald” as a confidential source. Section 44.520(a) of the Oregon Revised Statutes protects from disclosure “[t]he source of any published or unpublished information obtained by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public.” Instead, the court relied on section 44.520(b), which protects “[a]ny unpublished information obtained or prepared by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public.” Section 44.510(1) defines “information” as including “any written, oral, pictorial or electronically recorded news or other data.” The court characterized “Ronald’s” IP address as data.

On the question of whether the newspapers obtained this data in the course of newsgathering, Judge Redman drew a line based on the relevance of the blog comment to the post it’s attached to:

If the comment had been totally unrelated to the blog post, then the argument could be made that the Portland Mercury did not receive it in the “course of gathering, receiving, or processing information for any medium of communication to the public.” (source)

Concluding that the IP address fit within the shield law’s “broad statutory language,” the court denied Beard’s motion to compel.

Perhaps we’re seeing an emerging trend. In September, a Montana judge ruled that his state’s shield law protected the identity of an anonymous commenter to the Billings Gazette. (See my post for details.) Previously, anonymous commenters and service providers had relied almost exclusively on First Amendment protection for anonymous speech to block these kinds of discovery requests.

Gov. Palin’s Alleged Hacker Indicted October 8, 2008

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Washington Post, 8 October 2008

A 20-year-old student at the University of Tennessee has been indicted for breaking into one of the email accounts of Gov. Sarah Palin and then posting screenshots of personal information obtained there to a public Web-site.

David Kernell, the son of a Democratic state lawmaker, was led into a Knoxville federal court wearing handcuffs and shackles on his ankles today and was released without posting bond, according to the Associated Press.

According to the indictment, Kernell broke into the account, gov.palin@yahoo.com, by using Yahoo’s password recovery tool. After researching and correctly answering a series of personal questions from Yahoo, Kernell was allowed to reset the password. He chose ‘popcorn,’ according to the indictment.

The personal information he discovered there included the email addresses of family members, pictures of family members and Gov. Palin’s address book for her Yahoo email account. It was posted on http://www.4CHAN.org.

Learning of an investigation, Kernell “removed, altered, concealed and covered up files on his laptop computer,” the indictment says.

Trial is set for Dec. 16. He faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.