Federal prosecutors have dropped all but one of 12 fraud charges against Barrett Brown, a journalist and activist linked to hacker organization Anonymous. Those charges accused Brown of aggravated identity theft for what amounted to copying and pasting a hyperlink to material stolen by an Anonymous hacker from one chatroom to another.
The remaining fraud charge, which is still part of the criminal case, accuses Brown of illegally possessing stolen credit cards on his computer, presumably after he copied them from that link. Brown also still faces prosecution for allegedly threatening an FBI agent and for alleged obstruction of justice.
On Thursday, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas presented a motion to dismiss those 11 fraud charges, but offered no reason for the change in plans. Critics saw Brown’s case as an example of prosecutorial overreach, and his trial threatened to become a First Amendment test case.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation released a statement on decision:
We are relieved that federal prosecutors have decided to drop these charges against Barrett Brown. In prosecuting Brown, the government sought to criminalize a routine practice of journalism—linking to external sources—which is a textbook violation of free speech protected by the First Amendment.