The Other McCain

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Anonymous Spokesman Barrett Brown Is Sane Enough to Stand Trial, Judge Rules

Posted on | January 30, 2013 | 22 Comments

September 2012: Barrett Brown threatens an FBI agent in video

In September, Barrett Brown was arrested after a bizarre video meltdown in which he threatened to “destroy” an FBI agent. Brown is a former spokesman for the Anonymous hacking group, and his paranoid rant about HB Gary and alleged FBI informant Jennifer Emick was apparently inspired by an IRC chat with Neal Rauhauser. In October, Brown was indicted for threatening the FBI agent. In December, Brown was charged in connection with the LulzSec hacking of Stratfor. Last week, Brown was indicted against for an obstruction of justice charge.

Now facing as much as 100 years in prison on these charges, Brown appeared in federal court today in Dallas, Texas:

In a brief hearing this morning, United States District Judge Sam Lindsay found former self-proclaimed Anonymous spokesperson Barrett Brown mentally competent to stand trial. . . . At the same time, Brown was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to his newest charge, concealing evidence, for which he was indicted last week. . . .
In response to questions, Brown told the judge that he understood he was there in order for the court to determine his mental competency after a prison psychologist at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Worth recently issued a report recommending he be found competent. . . .
Brown told the judge that in Fort Worth he was “under the sporadic care of a psychologist,” after spending a week and a half under medical supervision while undergoing withdrawal from Suboxone, a drug used to treat opiate addiction. “I was addicted to Suboxone,” he told the judge.

Brown will face two separate trials, one in April and another in May, on the federal charges against him. More reporting from the Dallas Morning News and the Associated Press/KFDM.

In a brief phone conversation, Lee Stranahan — who attended today’s hearing in Dallas — told me that the question of competence was essentially uncontested by Brown’s public defender. Brown is reportedly being treated with Zoloft, an anti-depressant, and another drug, Risperidone, an anti-psychotic medication used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Is it possible that, while not contesting Brown’s current mental health condition as competent to stand trial, his attorney is prepared to argue that Brown was psychologically impaired at the time he recorded his threats against the FBI agent?

The video rant that led to Barrett Brown’s September arrest:




  • Adjoran

    Yes, he will claim some form of impairment based on drug addiction and mental illness, I suspect.

    Do you know how well that plays in federal cases? Let’s play a little game: See who can name the most federal defendants who have avoided prison time in the last 20 years due to insanity or diminished capacity claims.

  • Imaumbn™

    I wonder if he called his parents for bail money?

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    I wonder if he is weeping in his jail cell yet when the other prisoners taunt him about being their bitch.

  • robertstacymccain

    You’re saying that federal courts don’t generally go for the “diminished capacity” defense?

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady
  • Bob Belvedere

    How can they, considering who is President?

  • ThomasD

    Bipolar patients in an acute manic phase can often exhibit frank psychosis.

    It is possible that his rant was fueled by such a state, but given his long history of otherwise questionable behavior I doubt the court will afford him any sympathy.

    It’s all too much of a piece.

    Barrett is a twerp who history will rightly consign to insignificance. But I cannot help but suspect that if Oscar Wilde had lived in the age of teh intarwebs he quite likely would have crossed one too many lines and been squashed well before achieving any of his own significance.

  • Charles

    Anonymous does not seem to be sticking up for their spokesman. They haven’t hacked anything in his defense yet.

  • richard mcenroe

    All I’m gonna say with that pharmacocktail, nobody better let him anywhere near a handgun…

  • richard mcenroe

    Or their boss at DOJ?

  • Dai Alanye

    First, it’s obvious that Brown can’t claim insanity as a defense, because he’s well aware of wrong and right.

    Second, if he isn’t somewhat schizo he’s doing a fine job of method acting. Could be the drugs, of course, but the schizo tendency is obviously strong.

    Third, where’s his crime shown in this video? Is it now a crime in the US to dislike the FBI and say nasty things about an agent? If so, J Edgar could have charged a vast number of people.

    As I see it in this video, Brown’s crimes consist of incessant ranting and excessive use of the F-word, especially when referring to one’s mother.

  • WJJ Hoge

    Clearly, there is a relative low threshold for “sanity” in this case.

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  • Adjoran

    Listen again, he repeatedly threatened a federal agent – and I think his family at one point. That in itself is a federal crime – and posting it on YouTube amounts to a confession. I don’t know how strong the case is on obstruction, if the facts are as alleged that he attempted to hide a laptop from an FBI search under warrant they are pretty strong.

    But these charges are rock solid, signed, sealed and delivered. In living color. The US Attorney has no reason to offer any deal or sentencing leniency – UNLESS Brown starts singing about stuff that might earn the USAt some headlines.

    No wonder his old Anonymous pals aren’t acting for him, they know he will sell them out cheap.

  • Dai Alanye

    I admit Brown’s babbling didn’t entirely register on my conscious mind, but I’ve heard worse in bars (directed against ordinary citizens for the most part) and thought far worse myself. Fortunately the Feds haven’t perfected mind-reading. Most of what I managed to recognize was bluster, far less threatening than Michelle Malkin has come in for from Alex Jones.

    Of course if one wishes to raise federal agents onto some kind of pedestal… In other words, charge him with lese-majesty, and I can offer no defense. For that matter, possibly he has a pistol made from Legos hidden somewhere. Perhaps a basic question might be, if some joker confronted you in such a manner, how seriously would you take him? As for me, not very.

  • McGehee

    Notice he’s been indicted three separate times. Apparently he’s committed more crimes than merely babbling.

  • Adjoran

    Tell you what: go into an airport and joke about bombing. Go to the Capitol and bluster about “destroying” Obama. See where YOU end up in both cases.

    The threat IS the crime. It’s not veiled or implied.

    In the words of Ed Koch, “I can explain it TO you, but I can’t understand it FOR you.”

  • Dai Alanye

    I haven’t been offering legal advice but moral opinions. There is a world of difference, certainly, but I notice a few commenters have a latent tyrannical tendency that prevents their differentiating twixt the two.

    To stay on the moral aspect, what is the point of having a Second Amendment if we can’t freely speak both obnoxiously and stupidly on occasion? Apparently our legislature and judiciary choose to overlook the 2nd when government is under verbal attack. I expect true conservatives, though, to be able to figure it out.

    In the words of Mr Bumble, “the law is a ass…” True enough, on occasion, but conservatives have no need to act like jackasses, automatically acknowledging as good every arbitrary government diktat. Next time you choose to educate me please consider your premise beforehand.

  • Guy Average

    All he would have had to do was open the basement door and shout upstairs.

  • McGehee

    what is the point of having a Second Amendment if we can’t freely speak

    Boneheaded mistake detected. I suggest you read up and make the necessary correction.

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  • Jeff Goldstein

    For the record, this was the man that an LA county DA tried to use to harm my website. If anyone gives a shit.