- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2017

A federal judge handed down a five-year prison sentence Friday to a member of a hacker group that targeted U.S. government officials and notably leaked the contents of former CIA Director John Brennan’s email account.

Justin Liverman, 23, a member of the self-styled Crackas with Attitude (CWA), wasn’t involved in the Brennan breach in late 2015, but linked up days later with the hack’s mastermind — a British teenager known as “Cracka” — and before long began participating in group’s other nefarious online activities.

The North Carolina native pleaded guilty in January to a single count of conspiracy to hack in connection with the group’s subsequent cybercrime spree and was sentenced Friday to the statutory maximum of 60 months in federal prison — substantially longer than the 24 months sought by the defense.

“The sentence was excessive and unnecessary and the punishment in no way fits this crime,” Jay Leiderman, Liverman’s defense attorney, told The Washington Times shortly following Friday’s sentencing hearing in Alexandria, Virginia. A “total injustice.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia where Liverman was prosecuted did not immediately comment on his conviction.

Liverman first contacted “Cracka” in October 2015 days after the group’s leader publicly boasted of breaching Mr. Brennan’s AOL account and obtaining the then-CIA director’s personal emails, the likes of which were ultimately provided to WikiLeaks for publication. He congratulated the hacker on the Brennan breach and encouraged him to target others, and before long he began participating in CWA’s exploits under the alias “”D3F4ULT.”

“His role exponentially increased during the four months that he was an active participant in the conspiracy, going from a congratulatory email to becoming one of the conspiracy’s principals who made targeting decisions on behalf of the conspiracy,” U.S. Attorney Dana Boente wrote in the government’s pre-sentencing report.

Liverman’s victims aren’t identified in court documents, but previous reports indicate he played a role in CWA’s activities targeting at least two people in particular: Mark Giuliano, a former FBI deputy director, and Greg Mecher, the husband of then-White House Communication Director Jen Psaki.

According to prosecutors, Liverman made a slew of harassing phone calls and threatening text messages and emails against his intended victims and their families after publicly releasing their personal contact information.

“I willingly and actively conspired to social engineer the email accounts of multiple federal government employees’ for various reasons. At the time, I thought my reasons were political and valid,” Liverman said in his defense.

But prosecutors discounted his claimed motivation.

“He did not engage in these activities for political reasons, but rather for amusement and self-aggrandizement which he sought to achieve through harassment and causing fear,” Mr. Boente said.

Liverman was initially arrested in September 2016 and pleaded guilty in January to a single count of conspiracy related to violating federal hacking, identity theft and harassment laws. He was arrested earlier this year for an unrelated offense and was in custody at the time of Friday’s hearing, his lawyer said.

Andrew Boggs, also of North Carolina, similarly pleaded guilty this year and was sentenced in June to 24 months behind bars. Boggs used the hacker alias “INCURSIO” while participating in criminal activity connected to CWA, prosecutors said.

The hacker group combined claimed at least 10 victims and caused about $1.5 million in damages, including $95,000 linked directly to Liverman, according to the government.

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