Update, 11/3/14: Journalist Douglas Lucas was in the San Jose, CA, courtroom last week, and he reports that each of the defendants with felonies on their records had those dismissed, and each worked out a timeframe to pay the remainder of their owed restitution.
Though many declined, each defendant was given the opportunity to make a statement in court. Ethan Miles, who previously chose jail time over having a felony on his record, said in part:
It is because of my desire for transparency that I participated in the Internet activity that brings me here today. I believe that for a healthy democracy to exist, the public must be informed.
The full report at the Cryptosphere contains photos, more commentary on the day’s events, and more information about each defendant.
They’ll each pay what restitution money they have and will be placed on payment plans for the remainder
The PayPal 14 are activists charged under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for launching Distributed Denial of Service attacks against the websites of PayPal and other financial companies in retaliation for those companies’ extra-legal blockade of WikiLeaks upon the publication of secret documents exposing US atrocities, revealed by US Army private Chelsea Manning. Back in 2010, a PayPal representative said that on November 27, 2010, the US State Department sent the online commerce service a letter informing them that WikiLeaks was engaging in “illegal” activities, and PayPal consequently blocked funds to the publisher. Believing this was clear censorship, the PayPal 14 struck back.
In 2011, PayPal, in an apparent publicity stunt designed to malign the reputation of the young activists, alleged $5.5 million in damages, though a senior manager in corporate communications said, “PayPal was never down.”
In December 2013, 13 of those men and women (1, Dennis Collins, wasn’t eligible) pled guilty in a deal (though it was slightly different for 2 of them, who chose to serve a short jail stint rather than have a felony on their record) that would likely help them avoid prison but which required them to pay a total of about $80,000 in restitution. At the end of those proceedings, the defendants had one year to pay up and demonstrate good behavior.
But now comes the news, from codefendant Mercedes Haefer, that the judge in the PayPal case, Judge D. Lowell Jensen is retiring, and so he has moved that date up. That’s why thePayPal14.com counts down to “sentencing” on October 29.
That means that the 13 defendants will have to pay the restitution money they’ve raised thus far, and work out individually how to handle the rest: either cut a check on the spot if they have it, or they’ll get a timeline or payment plan to pay the rest. They’ve collectively raised $17,531 through their GoFundMe account, but that’s before GoFundMe takes its 8.5% fee off the top. They’ve raised another $1,400 or so in bitcoin.
The activists have had to ask supporters for help largely because their own financial lives have been ruined. Haefer has lost one job after a search warrant was issued, and another employer told her they wouldn’t hire someone they worried would steal credit card numbers. She’s been in and out of work for four years, just trying to make her own ends meet.
Similarly, Keith Downey had to give up his computer repair business in Florida and focus his attention on trying to pay restitution.
This group of young activists comprised a social circle online that restrictions have completely broken up. “Some of these people, pre-indictment, were my best friends,” Haefer said. “Now we can’t talk without a lawyer present.”
“Imagine if every activist friend you talked to every day — one day, if you talked to them, it was a felony.”
Their families were disrupted, too. “Are you aware that your daughter’s a terrorist?” Haefer’s parents were asked.
But tomorrow, at least 13 of them can take a big step forward toward closing this chapter of their lives, as this case effectively ends. Many of them will still need supporters’ help to finish paying off the restitution, but they no longer fear jail time for what in the physical world would have gotten them a trespassing ticket.
Meanwhile, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act remains a disproportionate threat, looming over activists who might wish to take the PayPal 14’s example.
PayPal 14 Press Release
Alexa O’Brien: Inside the ‘PayPal 14’ Trial
Interview with Stanley Cohen on the PayPal 14 Plea Deal – Video