Jay Leiderman is a criminal defense attorney in Ventura, California. He co-authored the first ever book on the legal defense of California medical marijuana crimes and has been called the “Hacktivist’s Advocate” for his work defending those accused of computer crimes. He has been recognized and won awards for going above and beyond to represent clients accused of all sorts of crimes. Jay frequently lectures around the state and nation on various criminal defense topics.
Jay Leiderman is a criminal defense lawyer based in Ventura, California. Jay was certified as a criminal law specialist by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. The Atlantic Magazine called Leiderman the “Hacktivist’s Advocate” for his work defending hacker-activists accused of computer crimes, or so-called (“Hacktivism”) especially people associated with the hacktivist collective Anonymous.
Other noteworthy cases Leiderman defended include People v. Diaz, which went to the California Supreme Court and made law on the ability of police to search a cell phone, Louis Gonzalez, who was falsely accused of rape, attempted murder and torture by the mother of his child and was jailed for 83 days before he was released and ultimately found factually innocent, the Andrew Luster or so-called “Max Factor” heir habeas corpus proceeding, wherein his sentence was reduced by 74 years the first-ever trial of medical marijuana defendants in San Luis Obispo County, California County, and Ventura County, California’s first ever concentrated Mexican Mafia prosecution – the largest case in the history of Ventura County.
Leiderman co-authored a book on the legal defense of California medical marijuana crimes, which was published by NORML, the National Organization For the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He is also a founding member of the Whistleblower’s Defense League, “formed to combat what they describe as the
FBI and Justice Department’s use of harassment and over-prosecution to chill and silence those who engage in journalism, Internet activism or dissent.” Leiderman frequently comments in diverse areas of the media about criminal and social justice issues. He also lectures around the state and nation on various criminal defense topics.
Here are some profiles of Jay Leiderman and quotes from news stories:
“It is fashionable always to cast aspersion upon those that defend persons accused of committing crimes. The viler the accused crime, the more vigorous defense the accused needs, yet, at the same time, the more vitriol the defense attorney will face. I cannot speak for my brethren in the legal community, I can only state that what follows is my own brand of patriotism; I defend those charged with crimes because it is both my duty as a lawyer and as an American. Each piece of resistance to the encroachment of overreaching governmental power is, in and of itself, a victory for freedom.”
The link below is a profile of Jay Leiderman done by the Atlantic Weekly Magazine with a quote from the piece: “We have an opportunity here to make the courts, as these cases wind their way up, understand privacy issues, emerging tech issues, against the backdrop of civil rights and through the prism of free information.”
“Investigators like to wave around the word ‘gang.’ They use it to strike fear in the heart of the community. It tends to also involve a lot of puffery and allegations that maybe perhaps aren’t 100 percent solid,” Leiderman said.
Leiderman thought it was not enough that the government dropped charges. He wanted the criminal justice system to recognize Gonzalez’s innocence affirmatively. There is such a thing as a declaration of factual innocence, he explained to Gonzalez. A judge can grant it. It is exceedingly rare – so rare that many cops and lawyers go a career without seeing one. It means not just that prosecutors couldn’t make a case against you, but that you didn’t do the crime. The case remained on the docket of Ventura County Superior Court Judge Patricia Murphy, who had earlier ordered Gonzalez held without bail. Leiderman petitioned the judge, trying not to get his client’s hopes up. He laid out the case, pointing out the holes in West’s story and the numerous alibi witnesses. Prosecutors did not want Gonzalez declared innocent. They knew a jury wouldn’t convict him but said they couldn’t be positive of his innocence. James Ellison, Ventura County’s chief assistant district attorney, later explained their reasoning: The attack West described was “improbable, but it wasn’t physically impossible.” In January 2009, nearly a year after Gonzalez’s arrest, Leiderman called him excitedly: The judge had sided with them. Gonzalez was soon holding a certified copy of the judge’s order declaring him factually innocent.
From: The Los Angeles Times feature: Could this be happening? A man’s nightmare made real
“The warrant did not give the power to rummage through the journalist’s files,” Leiderman said, adding “there is no indication of why all this information needed to be seized”.
“The days of ‘Let’s haul this kid in front of the judge, scare him and send him home with a warning’ are long since gone,” says attorney Jay Leiderman. “Prosecutorial discretion is a great thing if it’s exercised, but it doesn’t happen in any meaningful way these days, because prosecutions are so politicized.”
From: Is former Sacramento media employee Matthew Keys a victim of overzealous, misguided cybercrime prosecution?
“Our best and brightest should be encouraged to find new methods of expression; direct action in protest must not stifled. The dawning of the digital age should be seen as an opportunity to expand our knowledge, and to collectively enhance our communication. Government should have the greatest interest in promoting speech – especially unpopular speech. The government should never be used to suppress new and creative – not to mention, effective – methods of speech and expression.”
"There's no such thing as a DDoS 'attack'," Leiderman said. "A DDoS is a protest, it's a digital sit it. It is no different than physically occupying a space. It's not a crime, it's speech." Leiderman "runs the gamut" at his practice, where he focuses on civil rights, marijuana and civil law, he told TPM. During our phone conversation, he was headed to state court to represent the owners of a medical marijuana facility, based in North Ridge, CA. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/idealab/homeless-hacker-lawyer-ddos-isn-t-an-attack-it-s-a-digital-sit-in
“He is a good person. He did a bad thing,” Leiderman told the judge.
From: Santa Paula man gets probation for drunken-driving crash that killed fellow officer
Tin foil as reality," a phrase hacktivist lawyer Jay Leiderman whipped out during a panel for “The Hacker Wars,” permeated this year's South By Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Tex. This new reality, brought on in large part through the revelations of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, created a situation where Snowden and two other major speakers - Wikileaks's Julian Assange and journalist Glenn Greenwald - were physically unable to attend and instead used webcams to appear. http://www.occupy.com/article/snowden-assange-and-greenwald-live-streaming-sxsw#sthash.EOTBdYbg.dpuf
“Based upon this case, the government’s new position is that you are required to be clairvoyant in terms of determining what a protected computer is and what a non protected one is,” he tells me. “From now on you have to be a psychic…because if it isn’t password protected but it’s a ‘protected computer’ you’re potentially going to be found guilty.”
“Hack has become a sort of all-encompassing term, when in fact some of this was social engineering, some of this was good old-fashioned regular ‘there’s a hole, I’m going to walk through it’,” said Leiderman. “If you left your front door open people wouldn’t really call it a break-in. To some extent Stratfor were unsecure to the point where it was like their front door was open and Mr Hammond allegedly, with some others, walked right in, and people are calling it a hack. “As far as I’m aware, nothing was really hacked in the classic sense,” he added.
From: Analysis: a case of government versus hacktivism
What the "hacktavist" group does, how it dealt with the affiliated member who misidentified Michael Brown's killer and how many members are involved in Operation Ferguson
On Aug. 12, Ferguson City Hall’s website went black, its phone lines died and officials had to communicate by text, according to the St. LouisDispatch and the New YorkTimes. Self-identified members of the amorphous, hard-to-define hacker community Anonymous had struck again, according to the papers, this time in response to the shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer. A Twitter account allegedly associated with Anonymous—@TheAnonMessage—threatened Jon Belmar, the St. Louis County police chief, with publicly releasing his daughter’s information “in one hour” unless he released the name of the officer who killed Brown. While Belmar didn’t give in, and @TheAnonMessage dropped the ultimatum, the account and other self-identified Anonymous members would post two days later the home address, social security number and phone number of Belmar, telling him to “run, Jon, run.” While that practice, known as “doxing,” is a common Anonymous cyber attack, @TheAnonMessage would go on to wrongly accuse a citizen of killing Brown. Twitter subsequently shut down the @TheAnonMessage without much uproar from the Anonymous community, which prides itself on fighting censorship.
A week later, Anonymous is still at work, marking Thursday as a nation-wide “Day of Rage” to protest police brutality. To better understand why Anonymous, whose targets have been varied (including MasterCard, a Tunisia dictator and Kiss singer Gene Simmons), is interested in the Michael Brown shooting, TIME spoke with Jay Leiderman, an attorney who includes among his clients Anonymous hackers, and Gabriella Coleman, a McGill University anthropology professor who is writing a book on the loose-knit community. We also spoke about how many people were involved in Operation Ferguson and how the organization dealt with one of its own after falsely accusing someone of murder.
Why is Anonymous involved in the Ferguson protests?
Anonymous’ “main demand” is “justice” for Michael Brown and his family, Leiderman says. They can grab the attention of the Ferguson police and “let them know that they’re serious,” he says. Operation Ferguson falls in line with previous Anonymous efforts to unmask alleged perpetrators, such as the 2012 Operation Red Roll, which released private information about people allegedly complicit in the rape of a 16 year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio.
The “whole reason why” Anonymous got involved was a local rap artist—Tef Po—who called out for help on Twitter, according to Coleman, and the affiliated members responded. A day after the Brown shooting, Anonymous, through Operation Ferguson, released a statement asking Congress to pass a bill to set “strict national standards for police conduct.” It also warned the Ferguson government and police department of cyber counterattacks if the protesters were abused, harassed or otherwise harmed.
“If you attack the protesters, we will attack every server and computer you have,” wrote the Operation Ferguson author. “We will dox [document trace] and release the personal information on every single member of the Ferguson Police Department, as well as any other jurisdiction that participates in the abuse. We will seize all your databases and e-mail spools and dump them on the Internet. This is your only warning.”
Coleman says that there isn’t unanimous support within the hacker community nor Anonymous on shutting down websites. “It’s a big contentious debate between hackers who have a purist, free speech view, and others who have a more contextual one,” says Coleman. “There’s also a debate within Anonymous itself where a lot of hackers who really do the work of intrusion are not fans of doxing for two reasons: A) it’s technically uninteresting and B) sometimes they’re actually trying to gain access to those sites to hack them.”
“Really the main point is to gain media attention,” she says. “That’s kind of why that’s done more than anything else.”
How many Anonymous members are involved in Ferguson?
Anonymous is by definition a secretive group, one without leaders, an agenda or a set list of members. “No one has any idea” how many people are involved in Operation Ferguson, according to Leiderman, who called Anonymous a “nebulous and decentralized collective.”
“It’s impossible to say who is and who isn’t a member of Anonymous,” says Leiderman. “There is now way to disprove it.”
But Coleman says you can see which causes are more popular than others.
After the arrest of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange in 2010, and Anonymous disrupted the websites of MasterCard, Visa and Paypal for declining to serve WikiLeaks, around 7,000 people logged onto the Anonymous chat channel and downloaded hacking tools, according to Coleman. That ad hoc association was “probably the largest ever,” according to Coleman, and by her estimates, much more than the current Operation in Ferguson. (Anonymous distanced itself from Assange in October 2012 after he asked supporters to pay money for access to documents.) The Ferguson channel is used by up to 160 people, Coleman says, although “thousands and thousands” are “within the orbit” supporting the cause through Twitter.
“It is really hard to tell in terms of the numbers,” says Coleman. “You do get a sense of which ones are bigger and smaller and I would probably put this in the definitely not small, [but] definitely not as big as something like WikiLeaks. Probably in between.”
How is the Anonymous community dealing with the member who misidentified the officer who shot Michael Brown?
The @TheAnonMessage account was not a very well respected one within the Anonymous community, according to Coleman and Leiderman, despite the fact that it had been around for awhile.
“People had suspicions but because he was being really active and contributing a lot to the operation,” says Coleman. “They kind of put their skepticism aside in some ways until it was too late…This is something that in some ways is perennially a problem and just has to do with the kind of architecture of Anonymous where you can’t really control what people are doing. There are norms and rules and ethics that definitely push behavior towards certain areas and not others, but by no means [are they] fool proof.”
After Twitter took down the account, an Anonymous memberwrote a post to show a detailed tick-tock “that this was the work of an Anon who was acting against the advice of others.” Other Twitter accounts associated with the group, like Operation Ferguson’s account, declined to name the Brown shooter as it looked for additional sources.
Coleman says that with the exception of a few cases, Anonymous has “generally been correct” in uncovering the right information. She calls @TheAnonMessage a “loose cannon” that had earned “skepticism” because of erratic actions in the past. Coleman says there “was no outcry” when Twitter shut down @TheAnonMessage despite Anonymous being “so famous for hating censorship.”
“Anonymous attracts people who are willing to push the envelope,” she says. “But there is always a hope that people who are doing it are getting the right names and information… I think that there was this expectation that people are doing that work carefully so when they’re not, people in Anonymous get really pissed off.”
When asked if Anonymous’ reputation was hurt after @TheAnonMessage released inaccurate information, Leiderman first blamed the media for going with an untrusted source before saying that Anonymous usually does a better job of establishing a correct verdict.
“Really you can’t pin that all on Anonymous,” he says. “The media that ran with it [failed] to confirm or deny the veracity of the statement… If the older and larger accounts run with something, it usually has a better chance of being more accurate.”
“You really want to see more consensus in the collective before you run with something like that,” he adds. “People that identify with Anonymous are really good at asking ‘Are you sure?’, ‘How do you know?’ ‘Can you share the data with us in a secure way?’…and I’m not sure that happened in this case.”