[ISN] 'Pentagon hacker' plays joker on US authorities

From: InfoSec News (alerts@private)
Date: Thu Feb 15 2007 - 22:27:44 PST


By Mark Ballard
15th February 2007

Gary McKinnon, the hobby hacker who is fighting against a US extradition 
order, has pulled a legal wild card on his accusers in bid to face trial 
at home.

In the court of appeal yesterday, McKinnon's lawyers made reference to 
discussions that have been kept secret since 2003 when a plea bargain 
was considered, said Karen Todner, McKinnon's lawyer.

"We went for a plea bargain," said Todner, "The Americans said, if he 
pleaded guilty and didn't oppose the extradition he would get a much 
shorter sentence of three or four years - as opposed to ten or twelve - 
and he would come home within six to twelve months to serve the rest of 
his sentence."

McKinnon was adamant that he wanted to face trial in the UK and refused 
the bargain, yet agreed with the US that the deal should be kept secret 
and never drawn out and used in any subsequent court hearing.

However, said Todner, US prosecutors exhumed the plea bargain and put it 
before judges during his extradition hearing last year. So as far as the 
defence was concerned, it was fair game to use the bargain in his 

The plea bargain is useful for McKinnon's appeal, said Todner, because 
of Cobb v. U.S.A., which in 2001 found that coercing someone into 
extradition would infringe their human rights.

The US bargainers had done just that, Todner told The Register: "They 
said, 'if you don't go voluntarily we'll go for the maximum sentence and 
you won't be repatriated. That, we argued, is a breach of his human 

McKinnon has been feeling the pressure of the trial and stayed away from 
yesterday's appeal hearing due to illness. His blog [1] quoted a ZDNet 
story that reported heart palpitations and a hospital visit.

"It's been going on for five years now," said Todner, "If he'd been 
sentenced here he'd be out by now. It's had a traumatic effect on his 
life, with the pressure of facing a phenomenal sentence in the US."

Lords Justice Goldring and Kay will pronounce judgement on McKinnon's 
appeal against extradition next week.

[1] http://freegary.org.uk/

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