Way back in 2011, things were going very well for Barrett Brown, a hacker groupie-cum-journalist who'd made some friends in Anonymous, the once-fearsome online collective. Today, he was sentenced to 63 months in prison after aiding them in their reign of crimes and bullshit theatrics.
Correction: This article initially stated that Brown's charges included linking to stolen Stratfor materials in a public chat room; this charge was actually dropped in 2013. I apologize for the confusion.
Brown, who at one point faced up to a century of hard time for merely pasting a link to stolen materials in a public chat room, will now serve several years for threatening an FBI agent and charges of aiding and abetting. Brown was hardly a disinterested observer when it came to Anonymous at its height. He routinely served as spokesman and public relations expert, furthering the message of Anonymous, offering rambling streaming Q&A sessions, and at times speaking as if he were a member: in 2011, he threatened online action against the Mexican Zetas drug cartel. This never actually happened, but he boasted of a victory nonetheless: "we had all these names of their members and they knew it."
It's hard to buy his claims that he was just an independent journalist reporting on Anonymous when he places himself right in the thick of it. And there's no doubt he aided and promoted Anonymous, to the extent that it was fueled by fame and fandom.