Anonymous Associate Barrett Brown Indicted, Seeks Competency Evaluation

Barrett Brown, a vocal supporter of Anonymous, was arrested by the FBI three weeks ago. The raid occurred during an online chat at his home in Dallas. He was ordered detained without bail as a flight risk and danger to the community, but no charges were publicly available for weeks.

Brown has now been indicted on three counts, including making Internet threats, conspiring to make restricted personal information of a government employee publicly available, and retaliation against a federal law enforcement officer. The maximum sentence is 20 years. The Indictment is here.

His lawyer has filed a motion to determine his competency, which has been granted. From the docket: [More...]

9/19/12: ORDER as to Barrett Lancaster Brown: Defendant, BARRETT LANCASTER BROWN, has filed a Request for a Hearing to Determine Competency. Said request, pursuant to 18 U.S.c. §§ 4241 (a) and 4241 (e), and 18 U.S.C. §§ 4247(d) and 4247(h) is this 19th day of September, 2012, GRANTED. A hearing will be scheduled for October 18, 2012, at 2:00p.m. (Ordered by Magistrate Judge Paul D Stickney on 9/19/2012) (mcrd) [3:12-mj-00405-BF SEALED] (Entered: 09/20/2012)

9/26/12: ORDER granting 16 Motion for Psychiatric Exam as to Barrett Lancaster Brown (1). It is hereby ORDERED that Defendant Barrett Lancaster Brown be remanded to the custody of the United States Attorney General for placement in a suitable facility where he may be evaluated pursuant to §§ 4241(a) and (b) and §§ 4247(b) and © for purposes of preparing a report and that such a report be written regarding his mental competency to stand trial. Custody shall not exceed sixty (60) days for evaluation of this matter. (see order) (Ordered by Magistrate Judge Paul D Stickney on 9/26/2012) (mcrd) Modified on 9/26/2012 (mcrd). (dist) [3:12-mj-00405-BF SEALED] (Entered: 09/26/2012).

Part of the raid was captured during the online chat. The transcript is here.

In the You Tube video, Brown said he was retaliating against an FBI Agent who threatened to indict his mother on obstruction of justice charges. (Brown was raided months ago and apparently the FBI thinks a laptop wasn't turned over.) Near the end of the video, he says:

“[Agent RS's] life is over. So when I say life is over, I don’t say I’m going to kill him. But I’m going to ruin his life and look into his [expletive] kids because Aaron Barr did the same thing and he didn’t get raided for it. How do you like them apples?”

...“Any armed officials of the U.S. government, particularly the FBI, will be regarded as potential Zeta assassin squads and … they know that I’m armed … and I will shoot all of them and kill them if they come and do anything because they are engaged in a criminal conspiracy and I have reason to fear for my life, not just from the zetas but from the U.S. government.”

Brown is represented by the Federal Defender's office. There's a support site set up at FreeBarrettBrown.org. Here's a letter Barrett wrote from jail about a week after his arrest and asked to be disseminated to journalists and others.

Brown, who may be as well known for his struggle with heroin addiction and his vitriolic and hyperbolic style of writing as for his activism, may be in for a long struggle. If he's found incompetent, he will be held and treated until restored to competency. If he can't be restored to competency, the court will determine whether he is a danger to himself or others. If he is found to be a danger, he can be civilly committed. If he is not, he must be released. Here's a good summary of how it works in federal court.

Brown will be determined to be competent if is able to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and assist in his defense. Under federal law, a defendant is incompetent if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she “is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense.”

If found to be incompetent to stand trial, the Court is required to commit him to the custody of the Attorney General, who in turn is required to hospitalize him for treatment in a suitable facility within the Bureau of Prisons for a reasonable period of time, not to exceed four months, to determine whether there is a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future he will attain the capacity to permit the trial to proceed. 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d).

The four month period can be extended.

If Barrett is found incompetent to proceed, whether treatment restores his competency or does not, the Government could decide not to pursue his prosecution and move to dismiss the charges. In this case, according to the docket on PACER, the Government ultimately moved to dismiss even though the court found treatment would not restore the defendant to competency. In other cases, like this one, according to the court docket, the Government seems determined to proceed to trial now that the defendant's competency has been restored. If the Government is seeking to make an example of Brown, and send a message to Anonymous and other hackers, it seems unlikely they would voluntarily dismiss the charges.

Barrett doesn't seem to have a lot of options at this point that will return him to the community any time soon. If he's found competent, it's going to be difficult to prepare for trial while incarcerated. If he's found incompetent, he'll be held for treatment to attempt to restore his competency for months. He might be ordered to be subjected to forced medication.

Hopefully, with treatment and legal counsel, Barrett will come to understand that statements like these are good when trying to resolve criminal charges (from his letter):

I cannot excuse the mistakes I myself have made on both the strategic and tactical levels in my short career. I shudder when I look back on some of the things I wrote or said when I got my first real taste of power at the dawn of 2011, and I continue to bring shame upon myself and upon my family and work by some of the things I say even lately. In particular I have made comments about the U.S. military that I do not mean and which are obviously not entirely accurate. Along with other nonsense I have said, felt, written throughout my life, many of these things originate from my own fears and weaknesses.

But statements like this are not:

Having said that, I regret nothing.

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    so, i guess we expect rush limbaugh to be (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by cpinva on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 12:15:32 AM EST
    arrested soon, for making similar inflammatory comments, on his daily, 3 hour show? oh, wait, he's just an "entertainer", not someone people actually listen to. i guess i'm not clear on where that whole "first amendment" thing starts and ends. perhaps DOJ could give us a primer on it?

    SITE VIOLATOR -SPAM (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Anne on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 06:08:48 AM EST
    And hitting all the threads, as near as I can tell from the sidebar.

    I don't know about anyone else, but I sure would be interested in a "prefect music feast!"  Do you think there are clergy involved?

    I think it's pretty safe to say that this (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Anne on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 06:19:15 AM EST
    administration's zealous prosecution of alleged hackers, whistleblowers, and anyone else who speaks out of turn - well, except for those who leak to benefit of the government or the president - makes it more likely than not that they will not dismiss the charges against Brown.

    Without knowing all the details, I can't say for sure, but I'm getting the feeling that people like Brown are especially vulnerable to being goaded into saying and doing things that ultimately end up making it easier for the government to remove them from the picture.

    Something just doesn't feel right to me.

    Anonymous associate 'named Barrett Brown' (none / 0) (#5)
    by Mr Natural on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 08:00:42 AM EST
    Did something about the definition of anonymous elude this Dude?