According to the indictment, Keys, formerly a Web producer for Tribune Co.-owned television station KTXL Fox 40 in Sacramento, Calif., shared a username and password with members of Anonymous, which enabled them to log onto Tribune's content management system (CMS) and change a Los Angeles Times news story.
But Keys' attorney, Jay Leiderman, told The Huffington Post that his client was working undercover while reporting a story. "This is sort of an undercover-type, investigative journalism thing, and I know undercover -- I'm using that term loosely," he said. "This is a guy who went where he needed to go to get the story. He went into the sort of dark corners of the Internet. He's being prosecuted for that, for going to get the story."
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Prosecutors, however, alleged that Keys' actions went beyond reporting, and charged him with three criminal accounts: conspiracy to damage a protected computer, transmission of malicious code -- or information that could be used for such a purpose -- and attempted transmission of malicious code. The three charges together carry a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment and $750,000 in fines.
According to chat logs cited in the indictment, someone using the nickname "AESCracked" in December 2010 told participants in the #InternetFeds IRC channel -- Internet Feds was a precursor to LulzSec and Anonymous, and members of those groups as well as AntiSec and Gnosis frequented the channel -- who had expressed a desire to access a Fox website, that he was a former Tribune employee. He later shared a working username ("anon1234") and password with members of the IRC channel, then told them to "go [expletive] some [expletive] up."
When told that the Los Angeles Times had been defaced, AESCracked replied, "nice," according to a Department of Justice statement.
After Tribune canceled the anon1234 account -- less than a half hour after it was used -- a user nicknamed "sharpie" asked AESCracked via the #InternetFeds IRC channel for more usernames and passwords, to continue the defacement campaign. "Let me see if I can find some other users/pass I created while there," said AESCracked. "It takes a while to grant one username permission to every site. I'm doing that now," he said, apparently referring to Tribune using the same content management system for both the Los Angeles Times and Fox 40.
The indictment alleged that Keys was AESCracked. Sharpie, meanwhile, turned out to be one of the nicknames used by Hector Xavier Monsegur, a.k.a. LulzSec leader Sabu, who was arrested by the FBI in June 2012 and turned informer.