Dear Judge Preska:
I am an attorney in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Friends of mine who are social justice activists alerted me to Jeremy Hammond’s case, which I have followed closely for roughly one year now. I understand Mr. Hammond pleaded guilty to violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, but I write to respectfully request that he receive the most lenient sentence you can impose.
People who “engage in nonviolent direct action,” as Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “are not the creators of tension.” Instead, they “merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.” For them, commitment to humanity is more important than commitment to laws.
Conspiring to engage in computer hacking may not strike you as displaying a commitment to humanity. Yet Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor) compiles dossiers on activists, conduct comparable to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s obscene wiretap campaign to discredit Martin Luther King. Mr. Hammond conspired to engage in computer hacking because he believed people had a right to know what governments and corporations were doing behind closed doors.
Unfortunately, the law is often used as a tool to pacify and control activists. According to Peter Ludlow, a professor of philosophy at Northwestern University, “those most harshly prosecuted tend to be the ones that are challenging the established order, poking fun at the authorities, speaking truth to power – in other words, the gadflies of our society.” Although Mr. Hammond violated the law, he should not be sentenced more harshly than someone whose actions were motivated by profit rather than politics.
Indeed, the reason Mr. Hammond should receive the most lenient sentence you can impose is that he attempted to do what he believed was right, not what he believed might be lucrative. So many of us are guilty of committing the latter crime. The world would be a much better place for our children and grandchildren had we opted for the former.