small affair's Letter to Judge Loretta Presksa
Honorable Judge Loretta Preska
Southern District of New York
500 Pearl Street
New York, NY 10007
October 10, 2013
Dear Honorable Judge Preska:
Greetings. My name is XXXXXXXXX, and I'm writing to you today in regards to the upcoming sentencing of Jeremy Hammond. I am a professor of writing at the university level and grew interested in learning more about Jeremy Hammond’s case when I was designing curriculum for a writing course tailored to Criminal Justice students. As a writer, educator, and researcher, I grew and remain concerned that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is mired in vagaries and does not reflect the internet as we know it today. I understand that Jeremy Hammond had pled guilty to a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This particular legislation is vulnerable to being manipulated to serve those with power and privilege. I live in New Orleans, Louisiana, the state that houses more criminals per capita than any other in the United States, and have seen the devastating effects maximum prison sentences can have on social justice advocates, their loved ones, and communities as a whole. It is in the spirit of justice that I respectfully request that Jeremy Hammond be sentenced with the utmost leniency because of the inadequacies of the CFAA, the moral context of the scenario of the crime itself, and the defendant’s character and non-violent nature of the crime.
First, the CFAA itself is dangerous, vague, and unconstitutional. One merely has to examine the short sentences of co-defendants in Ireland and the U.K. (not more than sixteen months) to note the unreasonable criminalization Hammond faces because of a law that is in desperate need of reform. As I am sure you are aware, the CFAA was written in 1984 and enacted by Congress in 1986. In 1984, I was attending the fourth grade in public school and did not even know what a computer was, and Jeremy Hammond had not yet been born. One does not need a comprehensive background in information technology to recognize the dramatic changes the internet has undergone and the definition of what is and is not a "protected computer." Whatever was considered a "protected computer" in 1984 does not resemble the computers and internet used in the twenty-first century. In 1984, a vague law was created that is now applied to an information highway that has organically grown into what some argue is a living entity. The undeniable need to reform the CFAA alone is a case for leniency.
Second, the moral context of the crime Mr. Hammond pled guilty to must be examined. Recent revelations about the NSA's PRISM surveillance program have brought the surveillance state and its violation of civil liberties to the forefront of current debate. Long before that, however, the information leaked from Stratfor revealed a frightening surveillance culture of corporate and government spying on social advocacy groups. As you know, the First Amendment grants us the right to petition our government with grievances. Many activists spied on by Stratfor were only trying to hold corporations accountable for their unethical practices. Included were the actions of many ordinary citizens who were only trying to improve their lives by demanding a living wage. These actions, which are protected under the First Amendment, apparently warranted unconstitutional spying. Surveillance directed at social advocacy groups interferes with the right to peaceably assemble and petition for a governmental redress of grievances. Surveillance systems like Trapwire exist to monitor and intimidate Americans, creating a cultural obedience with the ultimate goal of infringing upon and by proxy prohibiting freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to peaceably assemble.
Surveillance networks may appear benign when examined from afar, and it was not until I personally experienced surveillance that I could comprehend the extent to which they function as tools of repression. In January of 2013, I was the First Amendment plaintiff in a winning ACLU lawsuit against the City of New Orleans. What I won was the right to hold a sign and flag that did not contain 60% NFL branding during the week of the Super Bowl. Had I not won that lawsuit, holding the American flag would have technically been illegal. Because of my participation in this lawsuit, I was monitored by the FBI while holding a sign about the economic hardships the Super Bowl inflicted upon members of the local community. I felt like my civil liberties had been stripped over reasons that had nothing to do with National Security. The fear and distress I experienced when learning that I was under surveillance surprised me even while the knowledge did not. Surveillance did not surprise me because at that time, I had already been aware of corporate-government spying because Jeremy Hammond helped the public learn about this network.
As a citizen of the United States, I am personally grateful that this surveillance network detailed in the Stratfor documents was exposed. The American public deserve to know that their Fourth Amendment right to privacy has been violated by private companies. That the Constitution of the United States has been violated by corporate clients is alarming, as is the nefarious corporate and government spying on activists. As an advocate for social justice, I believe the citizens of the United States want to trust their government. That Americans know more about private and government surveillance because of the information related to Mr. Hammond's offense is a benefit because it allows them to make more educated decisions. These decisions can now be guided by a moral compass calibrated by truth.
As you are aware, Your Honor, freedom of the press in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This clause is generally understood as prohibiting the government from interfering with the printing and distribution of information or opinions. I recognize Mr. Hammond as a source, via WikiLeaks publications on the US intelligence contractor Stratfor, for numerous media organizations in a time when our right to a free media is being stripped away. Actions against Bradley Manning, Barrett Brown, John Kiriakou, Thomas Drake, James Risen, WikiLeaks, and the Associated Press undermine basic political and journalistic freedoms. A lenient sentence for Mr. Hammond will demonstrate that the United States is not unjustly punishing whistle-blowers unilaterally.
Moreover, it is my belief that Mr. Hammond's crime was morally motivated. He has stated that “people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors.” Mr. Hammond did not capitalize off of the information and did not do this for his own benefit but because he was driven by the higher ideal - the pursuit of justice. His actions exemplify Civil Disobedience and reflect the values of advocates for social justice like Rosa Parks and the values of our founding fathers who wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Equally troubling in the moral context of this case is the involvement of the United States government in making the Stratfor documents available. The documented role of a confidential informant in the case orchestrated by the FBI begs the question as to why the U.S. government allowed the Stratfor documents to be uploaded to FBI servers. While the FBI had no problem allowing the Stratfor emails to be turned over to WikiLeaks, their use of an informant and nature of the “discovery” (the 3.5 million lines of text with possibly up to 45000 chat participants/co-conspirators) indicates that the United States does not want more of its secrets uncovered. It's rather troubling to not know why the FBI allowed the Stratfor documents to be released. The 14th Amendment grants all U.S. people equal protection, yet only one person is being charged with hacking Stratfor. The fact that Mr. Hammond committed a crime while ignorant of the assistance the FBI provided should be grounds for leniency in sentencing because Mr. Hammond was not fully aware of the nature of the Stratfor documents from the beginning. The FBI, however, was. It's troubling to think that one man could be sentenced to prison for ten years over a crime the United States government participated in. Since the U.S. government and FBI are receiving leniency in the way they are not being held accountable for a "hack" they orchestrated, it seems only fair that Mr. Hammond receive leniency in the form of a sentence of time served.
Also, I respectfully request that you consider a lenient sentence for Mr. Hammond because of the defendant's outstanding character. Jeremy Hammond is well-liked among people of various ages, genders, and backgrounds. Since growing interested in this case, I have been able to write many letters to Jeremy Hammond, and have enjoyed my communications with him. The sheer number of postcards and letters sent to Mr. Hammond demonstrate a love for him that cannot even be assigned to a specific community. One could argue that Mr. Hammond's supporters are a secret group of "computer hackers," but this is far from the case. Mr. Hammond is admired by educators, doctors, nurses, students, activists, prison reform advocates, and citizens of all demographics. He has been repeatedly described as a kind, bright young man by those who know him.
The emotional toll Mr. Hammond's incarceration is taking on those who love him must be considered. I have come to understand that Mr. Hammond is loved by many, and that his incarceration breaks the hearts of those closest to him. Many of Mr. Hammond's supporters have worked tirelessly to ensure that he will not be forgotten, that he has money in his commissary for basic needs, that he has stamps to send letters to people. He is a man who has been separated from his loved ones for well over a year already.
It was a sincere pleasure to be present in your courtroom on April 10th and see Mr. Hammond's eyes light up when he was granted ten minutes time to spend with his mother and brother. After the courtroom emptied, Jeremy Hammond was able to turn around in his chair and face his family from his chair across and talk. Jeremy Hammond was granted his first meeting with his mother and brother since his arrest, and it was ten minutes long. This ten minutes seemed like a precious gift and not what citizens should be able to expect from the Criminal Justice system. It is with sincere gratitude for your decision that day that I again ask you to humanely grant Mr. Hammond a lenient sentence (a sentence of time served would be ideal), so his family and friends can experience a lifetime of similar moments.
Your Honor, Jeremy Hammond is twenty-eight years old. He is obviously bright and thoughtful, and his supporters have relentlessly written to him and campaigned for his release. He has been using his time in prison to teach fellow inmates and educate himself by reading and playing chess. I do not see how a prison sentence that is less than lenient will benefit Mr. Hammond or the state. Mr. Hammond’s crime was inherently non-violent; while some may disagree with his morally motivated decisions, he is not a threat to a society in which offenders convicted of crimes like rape, child abuse, and manslaughter receive shorter sentences.
Furthermore, keeping Mr. Hammond incarcerated is a waste of tax payer money. Attorney General Eric Holder himself has acknowledged that “Too many Americans go to prisons for far too long” and has unveiled reforms to reduce the number of people sent to America’s overcrowded federal prisons. Currently, PSEA-HR 2656: The Public Safety Enhancement Act of 2013, has earned bipartisan support for its potential to reduce recidivism, lower crime rates, and reduce the amount of money spent on the federal prison system. Prison reform advocates argue that "The United States Criminal Justice System is flawed, broken, yet fixable; Prison Reform and Sentencing Reform should be major agenda's for each state- we need to stop warehousing prisoners and ready those who are going to parole. Inmate rehabilitation improves public safety and lowers prison costs" (Prison Reform Movement). A lenient sentence for Jeremy Hammond will release non-violent man; a maximum sentence will only provide another example of a flawed Criminal Justice System.
In recent years, the US legal system has been used more and more to target political dissidents, especially information activists. The prosecution of information activists like the late Aaron Swartz under the CFAA has made many Americans fear that the United States courts have “become part of a rigged system that favors corporations and those politically connected to them” and that “checks and balance will only come from the people” (Counterpunch). Your Honor, Mr. Hammond’s sentencing awards you the opportunity to reassure the world that the United States justice system is not constantly suffering from unchecked authoritarian power. I beg you to not allow Hammond’s sentencing to compound the problem that the CFAA has permitted prosecutors to exploit the law by engaging in significant over-charging.
A wise person once said, “We should reserve prison for those we are afraid of, not for those we are just mad at.” I trust that, as a judge who has been nominated for The Supreme Court and who honors the Constitution, you will demonstrate that a non-violent man - a man the American public has no reason to fear - is sentenced leniently because he poses no threat to society. In your civilian court that follows the Constitution, you have the opportunity to restore some of my faith in the justice system by issuing Hammond a light sentencing.
The state gains nothing from keeping this non-violent man incarcerated for a moment longer. Giving Mr. Hammond a sentence that is anything less than lenient will only illustrate that the rule of law is irreparably broken.
I hope this letter finds you well, and again urge you to consider sentencing Mr. Jeremy Hammond with utmost leniency.
(Personal info redacted for obvious reasons)
Some noteworthy links:
Free Jeremy Hammond Dot Net: Letters Urgently Needed! Join Us in Asking for Leniency in Jeremy’s Sentencing!
Jay Leiderman: Letters Desperately Needed For Jeremy Hammond's Sentencing by 10/15
FreeAnons Dot Org
Free Jeremy Hammond Support Network on Facebook
Jeremy Hammond Indictment
Jeremy Hammond and the Broken Rule of Law – The Other Bradley Manning
Free Jeremy Hammond and The Obama Administration’s Attack on Whistleblowers
WIKILEAKS STATEMENT ON JEREMY HAMMOND
LulzSec, the FBI Asset, the Stratfor Files and the Operation to Entrap WikiLeaks
April 10, 2013. Jeremy Hammond’s Discovery Hearing
Was the FBI complicit in Anonymous hacking Stratfor and leaking its emails to WikiLeaks?
Democracy Now, The Other Bradley Manning: Jeremy Hammond
The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State
Occupy The Stage Letter Writing Video
This video was made by Occupy The Stage in support of The Free Jeremy Hammond Support Network and Free Anons.
Here is the link to donate to Jeremy Hammond's defense: https://www.wepay.com/donations/jeremy-hammond-defense
The poem was written by @ots_nola and the song playing in the background is "Brand New Key" by Melanie. Choreography and set built by @ots_nola.
"Fuck Sabu" was written by @small_affair, but that in no way implies that she would actually send something like that to a judge because she wouldn't.
The Chihuahua was enthusiastic about participating in this production.
Please write to Judge Preska asking for leniency and help Bring Jeremy Home!!!
I live in a box
I have no sox
And my drawers they smell of cheese
My freedom at rest
I have a request
A small favor if you please
My sentence is near
And I gravely fear
That my concerns have not been met
A letter to my judge
With hope she will budge
I am told is my safest bet
If you're in good health
With a little extra wealth
Perhaps a nod to my commissary
I gave up my rights
To further the fight
Otherwise I would get my own damned tuna and crackers
Please write to the law office of
Susan G Kellman
25 Eighth Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217
NOTE: This is TAKE 2 because the first video had writing that was hard to read, so we made it bigger.
Special appearance by our Ninja Kitteh.