Federal prosecutors moved on Wednesday to dismiss most of an indictment accusing a Dallas man linked to the hacking collective Anonymous of posting an Internet link to stolen information.
Barrett Lancaster Brown still faces three separate indictments that carry the possibility of decades of prison time. But prosecutors on Wednesday said they wanted to dismiss 11 of 12 counts in one of those indictments related to what Brown's supporters say was journalism work about private contractors and cybersecurity.
Brown remains jailed pending separate trial dates in April and May.
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Brown has been supported by high-profile journalists and advocates who say his case raises questions about free-speech rights under the First Amendment and Internet freedom.
The indictment had charged Brown with republishing a link to hacked emails and data from the contractor Stratfor.
Brown's attorneys argued that posting a link in the case wasn't criminal activity because the information behind it was already public. As founder of a site called Project PM, Brown was working with contributors who "conduct research using publically available materials such as information obtained from leakers and hackers," his attorneys said in their motion arguing for a dismissal of the 11 counts. They also argued that prosecuting Brown for posting the link violated the First Amendment.
Prosecutors did not explain in their motion why they agreed with Brown's attorneys. Kathy Colvin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Dallas, declined to comment.
Brown remains charged with access device fraud in the indictment. A separate indictment charges him with posting threats on the Internet about an FBI agent -- including one statement on YouTube that Brown would "ruin his life and look into his (expletive) kids."
A third indictment charges Brown with trying to hide two laptops from federal agents with the help of his mother, Karen McCutchin. She pleaded guilty last year to hiding the laptops and was given six months' probation, but no jail time.
Both sides remain under a gag order in the case.