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Judge in Anonymous Supporter's Trial Has Alleged Conflict of Interest in Case

Judge Loretta Preska, who is presiding over Jeremy Hammond’s trial for his role in the Christmas Eve attack on Stratfor in 2011, is being accused of having a conflict of interest in the case – as she is married to a victim of the Stratfor breach. Word of the alleged conflict comes from a notice posted online by Anonymous; on the same day it was revealed that Hammond could face life in prison for his crimes.

Last week, during a pre-trial hearing for Jeremy Hammond, Judge Preska told the defendant that he could face anywhere from 360 months to life in prison if he is found guilty. After being imprisoned for 8 months, Hammond was told at the hearing that his request for bail was denied, and he will remain behind bars until his trial next year.

Hammond was arrested in March, after the FBI learned from an informant (Anonymous’ Sabu) that he was behind the Christmas Eve attacks on Stratfor. Hammond, claiming affiliation with the AntiSec movement, and others targeted Stratfor last December, exploiting weak network security in order to walk away with 860,160 usernames (email addresses) and passwords, in addition and 60,000 credit card records. FBI records attributed $700,000 worth of charge fraud to the stolen cards.

In an interesting twist in Hammond’s case, Judge Preska appears on paper to be married to one of the victims in the Stratfor case. Last June, Stratfor settled a class action lawsuit filed against the company by those who had personal information exposed due to the breach. Based on public archives of the stolen data, one of the Stratfor subscribers who qualified for class action settlement is Thomas J. Kavaler, a partner at the law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP.

Additional public details, including Mr. Kavaler’s corporate email address (listed on the firm’s website and WikiLeaks’ copy of the Stratfor records), and marriage notices confirm what seems to be a clear conflict of interest for Hammond’s judge. It is unknown why she has continued with the trial thus far.

“Judge Preska by proxy is a victim of the very crime she intends to judge Jeremy Hammond for. Judge Preska has failed to disclose the fact that her husband is a client of Stratfor and recuse herself from Jeremy's case, therefore violating multiple Sections of Title 28 of the United States Code,” a statement on the case from Anonymous notes.

“Judge Loretta Preska's impartiality is compromised by her Husband's involvement with Stratfor and a clear prejudice against Hammond exists, as evident by her statements.”

Hammond was denied bail due to the perception of being a flight risk. He remains in custody in New York.

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.