Sex offender who hacked Jumbotron gets 220 years | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

It has been a long wait for Brandon Champion since 1997, when a member of his church sexually abused him.

Champion was 15 when Samuel Arthur Thompson of St. Augustine sexually assaulted him in Alabama. Now Thompson has been sentenced to 220 years in federal prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Davis sentenced Thompson, 54, on Monday for producing and possessing child sex abuse material, violating the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act and hacking the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Jumbotron screen.

“My comment back to the FBI agent was that this is the first time I have been able to rest easy, that he will never live long enough to see another victim,” Champion said. “He will never prey on another kid.”

Champion’s mother, Maggie, said she can live with the sentence — “as long as it covers his lifetime.”

“But the FBI told me he can get out in 184 years for good behavior,” she said Tuesday from Alabama.

Brandon met Thompson at their church in the 1990s, when the older man was part of the Royal Rangers. According to its national website, the group is an “activity-based, small-group church ministry for boys and young men.” Thompson was part of its camp program and worked at the Sonlight Broadcasting Network, so he also handled the church’s audio system, Champion’s mother said.

Thompson befriended Brandon, who loved electronics, and let him operate the audio sound board, then ultimately took him on trips with Sonlight Broadcast, Maggie Champion said. He also visited their house, as well as another boy’s home. Maggie Champion said she was comfortable with Thompson because he had a son himself.

Then she found out that Thompson would sleep in her son’s room on some of those overnight visits with her and her family. And in March 1997, she said she learned that her son had been sexually assaulted. That led to Thompson’s first arrest and a 21-month jail sentence.

Maggie Champion later learned that Thompson was out of jail and his life had progressed as a convicted felon and sex offender.

“He only served 21 months; he was given a three- to 10-year sentence,” Maggie Champion said Tuesday. “We were never notified. He was let out of prison and was already engaged to a girl in Jacksonville. In 2002, I got the first phone calls ever from the girl, who had two young boys, and he told her a story about going to prison, a little bit of the truth.”

The Jacksonville Jaguars hired Thompson as a contractor around 2013 to consult on the design and installation of the team’s new Jumbotron screens, ultimately operating them on game days. But his contract with the Jaguars required him to report his conviction and sexual offender status, and he did not, prosecutors said.

In early 2018, the Jaguars did not renew Thompson’s contract after learning of his history. But before his contract expired in March 2018, Thompson installed special software and remotely hacked the Jumbotron during three games, causing the video boards repeatedly to malfunction, prosecutors said.

An example of the hacked Jumbotron screens during a 2018 Jacksonville Jaguars game. | U.S. Attorney’s Office

The Jaguars tracked down the remote hacker’s internet address during another attempt, and the FBI traced it to Thompson’s home. Agents executed a search warrant in July 2019 and seized a number of his computers, learning that they had been used to remotely access the Jaguars Jumbotron.

The FBI also found thousands of images and hundreds of videos depicting the sexual abuse and torture of young children, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Agents learned that Thompson traveled to the Bahamas on a work trip in July 2019, then registered as a sex offender when he returned July 15. But he failed to report the travel as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. That same day, Thompson received child sexual abuse material on his computer.

Twelve days later, Thompson fled to the Philippines, again failing to report his travel. His passport was revoked, and he was deported from the Philippines on Jan. 31, 2020, then arrested by the FBI and held pending trial, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Maggie Champion said her son still has post-traumatic stress disorder 27 years after he was assaulted, but has built a career in information technology and medical billing.


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