Oops: After Threatening Hacker With 440 Years, Prosecutors Settle for a Misdemeanor

Andy Greenberg reports:

Thanks in part to America’s ill-defined hacking laws, prosecutors have enormous discretion to determine a hacker defendant’s fate. But in one young Texan’s case in particular, the Department of Justice stretched prosecutorial overreach to a new extreme: about 440 years too far.

Last week, prosecutors in the Southern District of Texas reached a plea agreement with 28-year-old Fidel Salinas, in which the young hacker with alleged ties to members of Anonymous consented to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of computer fraud and abuse and pay $10,000 in restitution. The U.S. attorney’s office omitted one fact from its press release about that plea, however: Just months ago, Salinas had been charged with not one, but 44 felony counts of computer fraud and cyberstalking—crimes that each carry a 10-year maximum sentence, adding up to an absurd total of nearly a half a millennium of prison time.

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