A former intelligence analyst with the U.S. Air National Guard was sentenced Monday to 7½ years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography and failure to appear charges.
U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger for the Middle District of Tennessee sentenced Matt DeHart to 72 months for the porn charges and an additional 18 months for fleeing the country, the National Post reported.
Matt DeHart, 31, was accused in 2010 of receiving lewd images from two underage boys he had met on the Internet, but claimed U.S. prosecutors only pursued him after learning of his affiliation with the hacktivist movement Anonymous and WikiLeaks, the whistleblower organization. He fled to Canada in 2013 during a failed asylum bid and was deported to the U.S. in 2015 to stand trial.
While in Canada, DeHart told reporters that he had operated an Internet server that someone had used to upload sensitive military documents destined for WikiLeaks. The secret-spilling website has referred to DeHart as an “alleged WikiLeaks middleman,” and Sarah Harrison, an editor with the website, called Monday’s sentencing “another shameful milestone in the U.S. government’s war on digital activists.”
Previously, DeHart claimed that he was apprehended by the FBI while traveling between Canada and the U.S. in 2010 and was heavily sedated by authorities before being interrogated about Anonymous, WikiLeaks and his role with the U.S. military.
“They wouldn’t let me leave,” he told the National Post in 2014. “I wasn’t charged with anything, they said, ‘We’re questioning you for national security.’ They didn’t ask me a single thing about child pornography. That was not even a peripheral concern of theirs.
“When you have rights that you know that you have from when you were a kid, and then you’re told they don’t exist because it is national security, that kind of changes things,” DeHart said. “Is this really happening? And you realize nobody is going to stop these guys.”
DeHart at one point faced upwards of 50 years in prison, but pleaded guilty in November to two counts of receipt of child pornography and one count of failure to appear for fleeing to Canada in 2013 while under investigation in the U.S. The plea deal acknowledges DeHart asked two teenage boys to send him naked photos of themselves starting in 2008 when he was 21.
“We are relieved to have closure,” his father, Paul DeHart, told the National Post. “We pray for Matt’s continuing protection. We are thankful for friends, family and so many in the public who follow our case to keep those in power honest.”