‘Homeless Hacker’ Lawyer: DDoS Isn’t An Attack, It’s A Digital Sit In

September 28, 2011 9:55 a.m.

A lawyer for a homeless man accused of launching a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on the city of Santa Cruz because of an anti-camping law told TPM on Wednesday that such campaigns are the modern day equivalent of occupying the Woolworth’s lunch counter as happened during the civil rights movement.

Jay Leiderman, the lawyer who is representing 47-year-old Christopher Doyon on a pro bono basis, said that regardless of whether his client is “Commander X,” DDoS attacks should be legal.

“There’s no such thing as a DDoS ‘attack’,” Leiderman said. “A DDoS is a protest, it’s a digital sit it. It is no different than physically occupying a space. It’s not a crime, it’s speech.”

Leiderman said the crimes shouldn’t be prosecuted at all. “Nothing was malicious, there was no malware, no Trojans. This was merely a digital sit in. It is no different from occupying the Woolworth’s lunch counter in the civil rights era.”

Civil rights-era comparisons have become a bit of a theme amongst lawyers representing clients the feds say are affiliated with Anonymous. In the first big Anonymous case, the defendants were accused of attacking PayPal for not prosecuting payments to WikiLeaks. In Doyon’s case, he and Joshua Covelli (who was also charged in the PayPal indictment) are accused of attacking Santa Cruz County’s computer servers on Dec. 16.

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Leiderman confirmed that his client is homeless and said he was hoping someone would “step up and give him a place to stay, though right now he’s housed by the federal government.” There’s a detention hearing scheduled for Doyon on Thursday, and Leiderman is hoping that he, like others allegedly affiliated with Anonymous, will be released on a signature bond.

Leiderman said he couldn’t say with certainty how Doyon accessed the web, but said he had “no doubt” that libraries were a part of his routine. He also noted that Doyon was arrested in a coffee shop.

Many of the attorneys representing other defendants in the Anonymous case are lawyers who Leiderman has known for a long time, and he said he’s been following the other Anonymous case closely.

Leiderman said while he was “personally sympathetic” to those who launched a DDoS attack on PayPal (who he said would “process donations for the KKK and not WikiLeaks”), he said his personal opinions have nothing to do with this case.

“I’m tasked with defending Mr. Doyon against unjust charges,” Leiderman said. “I’m not looking to prove a political point.”

Leiderman and his partner “run the gamut” at their practice, where he focuses on civil rights, marijuana and civil law, he told TPM. During our phone conversation, he was headed to state court to represent the owners of a medical marijuana facility, CannaMed, based in North Ridge, CA.

Doyon, Leiderman said, has no family in the area and has been homeless for the better part of 20 years. While the feds called him a resident of Mountain View, Leiderman said he had only been living there for a short time.

Leiderman said he’s vague on some of the details of the case because he only got to talk to Doyon for about 10 minutes before and 5 minutes after his appearance in court last week. But he believes that Doyon said something about the feds “seeming to know where his camp was.” He expects to learn more about what evidence federal prosecutors plan to use against his client on Thursday.

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