Updated at: 11/08/2013 4:05 PM
By NOMAAN MERCHANT
(AP) DALLAS - A federal judge declined to order jail time for the mother of a writer and activist with ties to the hacking collective Anonymous, after she pleaded guilty to helping her son hide laptops from federal agents.
Karen Lancaster McCutchin was sentenced to six months’ probation and a $1,000 fine. She apologized Friday in Dallas federal court for hiding the laptops from agents during a March 2012 raid at their home. Her son faces three separate federal indictments and has gotten widespread attention among groups that contend he’s being unfairly prosecuted.
"My better judgment was clouded by my maternal instinct," McCutchin said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Stickney said McCutchin’s crime "does not warrant any jail sentence at all."
"I feel for you, as a parent," Stickney told McCutchin, adding: "I know you did the best you could."
Brown, 32, has written extensively about the Internet and the relationships between the federal government and private contractors _ and has continued to be published while in federal custody. He’s previously served as a de facto spokesman for Anonymous, the shadowy movement of "hacktivists" that has built a reputation for its bold attacks on governments and companies.
Brown landed in jail in September 2012 after posting YouTube videos and tweets that ripped his opponents in the online world and the FBI, which was later revealed to have been investigating him. In the videos, he names one agent and threatens to "ruin his life and look into his (expletive) kids."
He was arrested shortly after that video was posted online. Since then, federal prosecutors have obtained three indictments against him: for making Internet threats and retaliating against law enforcement; for aggravated identity theft and device fraud charges for posting an Internet link; and for concealing the laptops.
In total, he faces more than 100 years in prison.
Defenders say he simply posted a link to a private contractor’s documents obtained by Anonymous that included credit card numbers, and that he said what he did in the videos because he feared authorities coming after his mother, whom he called a simple "rule follower."
"When it comes to your family, it’s hard to be rational," said one of his attorneys, Charles Swift, earlier this year.
McCutchin’s attorney, Bob Webster, said she wanted to try to help Brown, who has acknowledged using drugs in media interviews and in court, and did what she thought was right at the moment.
"The last thing she wanted was to bring harm to Barrett," Webster said. "She would do that until her dying breath. If circumstances arose, I’m very sure she would do that again."
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