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A federal appeals court has denied a last-ditch reprieve for a journalist sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted in a hacking case.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order Thursday denying former Reuters social media editor Matthew Keys’ plea to remain free while he appeals his convictions.
“Appellant has not shown that the appeal raises a substantial question’ of law or fact that is ‘fairly debatable,’ and that ‘if that substantial question is determined favorably to defendant on appeal, that decision is likely to result in reversal or an order for a new trial of all counts on which imprisonment has been imposed,’ or a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment, or a reduced sentence to a term of imprisonment less than the total of the time already served plus the expected duration of the appeal process,” the order issued by judges Mary Schroeder and Richard Paez said.
A lawyer for Keys, Jay Leiderman, said he regarded the motion to stay Keys’ sentence as an uphill battle.
“The standard of proof on these motions is very high and the success rate is very low. Nonetheless, we are steadfast in our belief that this motion should have been granted,” Leiderman said.
Keys, an early innovator at gathering breaking news via social media, is likely to have to report to prison within days. He had no immediate comment on the appeals court’s ruling.
Keys, who worked for two TV stations before joining Reuters, was engaged online with members of the hackers’ collective Anonymous when he got into a dispute with his then-employer, a Tribune Co.-owned TV outlet.
Prosecutors said he posted Tribune login credentials in a hackers’ forum along with a colorful phrase encouraging others in the chat room to “go f— some s— up.” Soon thereafter, a news story at the Los Angeles Times was vandalized.
Much of the trial last year was consumed by discussion of what costs should be attributable to the hacking. Defense lawyers said those costs should be limited to the modest work to fix up the defaced story, which was fixed within 40 minutes. Prosecutors said the bill was much larger. They also included costs related to unauthorized messages Keys sent to the Tribune stations viewer email list.
Keys’ appeal is expected to argue that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is being misapplied to cases where there is no intent to cause actual damage to computer systems and that the process for calculating the cost of such damage is unreasonable.