Man affiliated with Anonymous #OpAustralia returns to court August 11th
DataBreaches.net has previously reported on the case of Mathew Hutchison, a young Australian who found himself on the wrong side of the law for attempting to redirect the Indonesian faction of Anonymous away from businesses and not-for-profits in Australia. Hutchison ran afoul of Australian law because videos that he uploaded to YouTube in the name of #OpAustralia and chats he engaged in pointed the Indonesian hackers at Australia government web sites. Hutchison’s logic was simple: if you’re mad at the Australian government over surveillance of your country, attack the Australian government, not not-for-profits and small businesses.
Not surprisingly, the Australian government did not take kindly to the DDoS attacks the Indonesian faction of Anonymous subsequently launched on those sites. Unable to identify or prosecute those who actually engaged int he DDoS attacks, they went after Hutchison.
In May 2014, Hutchison, or “Rax” or “RaxStorm” as he was known online, was raided and then arrested. Even though he did not engage in any attacks on government sites himself and was not charged with any hacking or attacks, he was charged with incitement because he encouraged or pointed others at the government sites.
As interviews by the Australian Federal Police and chat logs subsequently revealed, Hutchison had had to ask others what the relevant government web sites would be, and he had no idea what the various government agencies even did. He also naively believed that government web sites would be strong enough to withstand any attack by the Indonesian hackers.
In April of this year, Hutchison pleaded guilty to one count of incitement and one unrelated charge involving possession of a laser pointer. The Australian Federal Police had found the laser pointer during the raid, and the type of laser pointer he had is apparently a prohibited weapon in Australia.
DataBreaches.net caught up with Hutchison for a chat to find out where his case is up to and how the 21-year-old has been holding up. From what he described, his arrest has taken quite a toll on him.
Hutchison reports that he wound up losing his full-time job as a result of his arrest, and he’s only been able to secure part-time work (a “casual position”) since then. The loss of most of his income, combined with his lawyer’s fees which he is paying himself, have created financial stress for him. It’s also left him with too much unproductive time on his hands.
“A typical day for me is simple,” Hutchison tells DataBreaches.net. “I wake up.. turn my computer on, I may log in to IRC and that’s it. I go to bed, lay down and do nothing. I may get up and play a video game or two.. but in the end, it’s sleeping. And as for studying, I have lost all motivation for now.”
The loss of motivation is just one aspect of the sense of emptiness Hutchison reports feeling these days. When asked how he felt about his upcoming sentencing, he replied:
“I have no emotions, I actually don’t know what to feel. I don’t know if I should be scared of the unknown or happy that it’s over.. it’s hard to describe. I feel no anxiety at all now. Twelve months ago, I was very anxious but as time went on.. I guess I just stopped caring and felt hopeless. I guess you just “strap yourself in and go for the ride.” I know that I did something wrong and I know that there are consequences. What those are, I guess I can’t feel any emotion until I know what the punishment is. If that makes sense.”
Hutchison’s sense of emptiness is also reflected in his social isolation offline. His housemates at the time of the raid no longer speak to him, and with one exception, almost all his other friends have also withdrawn from him.
‘Everytime I would organize something to do – whether it’s going for a drive, movies, dinner etc.. they were always busy. So I kinda put two and two together,” Hutchison tells DataBreaches.net.
Hutchison’s future remains in doubt. The incitement charge can result in 5 years in jail while the laser pointer-related charge could result in 2 years. Whether they would run consecutively or concurrently, or whether the prosecution might agree to a reduced sentence – or even community service and probation – remains to be seen. While the Indonesian hackers’ attacks on government sites did interrupt government services, Hutchison’s naiveté and his good intentions – plus his lack of criminal record and the fact that he was only 20 at the time of the incident – might result in some leniency by the court.
Even if the court should grant him community service and probation, though, Hutchison says he’ll have a record as a convicted felon.
FreeAnons.org, a collective that supports arrested or jailed members of Anonymous, has been offering Hutchison emotional support and hopes that the court will be lenient. They provided DataBreaches.net with the following statement:
FreeAnons believes Mr. Hutchison has committed no crime at all with regard to charges leveled against him. The allegation is for the production of a YouTube video, which we view as a legitimate form of protest by anyone. How harshly should he be punished for a victimless crime of speaking truth to power? American law treats that as a probation only misdemeanor, which we view as excessive. FreeAnons stands in solidarity with all persecuted Anons who fight so hard for a better future.
According to the government prosecutors, however, this was not really a victimless crime, in part because the government was unable to issue traveler’s warnings during the time one of the sites was disrupted by the Indonesians’ attack. Because Hutchison had no idea what that agency even did, it was clearly not his intention to put people at risk.
Hutchison returns to County Court of Victoria in Melbourne on August 11. His case is scheduled to be heard at 9:30 am (that’s Monday, August 10, 7:30 pm EDT). He informs DataBreaches.net that he’s not sure whether he will be sentenced at that time.
Whatever happens, his family will be there for him. As Hutchison tells DataBreaches.net, they are supportive of him and recognize that sometimes, people can make big mistakes. He hopes the court will recognize that, too.
Update: Hutchison tweeted that his case has been moved to 10:30 am.