Barrett Brown's Case Has Been Unmuted

Barrett Brown's gag order has been lifted, and crucial court documents have been unsealed.

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Apr 24 2014, 12:15am

Since September of last year, American journalist Barrett Brown has been unable to discuss the details of his case with media (excepting that his attorneys could discuss fundraising with Kevin Gallagher, the director of his legal defense fund). Brown was arrested after he appeared to be threatening an FBI agent in a YouTube video. He was subsequently indicted for sharing a link that prosecutors alleged contained leaked credit card data from the Statfor hacks.

US Attorneys originally motioned and were granted an order to prohibit Brown's communications with members of the press. They claimed if he were to do so, he could “impair the rights of the Defendant, the Government, and the public to a fair trial by an impartial jury.” Of course, there's not going to be a trial for Brown any more. He recently struck a sealed plea deal, that would “obviate the need” for such a gag, US attorneys wrote in a motion filed Monday—which hinted the unsealing of the plea agreement, and other sealed court filings.

We knew that the gag order was being lifted after learning three weeks ago (due to electronic court filings) that Brown and the prosecution had agreed to a sealed plea deal.

Today, the documents are unsealed and available, including the plea agreement, a factual resume, and the “government's opposition to motion to dismiss” two indictments CR-317, CR-030. “A veil of unnecessary secrecy that loomed over this case has finally been lifted,” wrote Kevin Gallagher, the director of the Free Barrett Brown organization. He introduced the freshly unsealed documents in a Tumblr post.

Some of the unsealed documents—that the gag order essentially acted to distance from conversations about Brown's case—highlight security issues for journalists' communications:

"This order (to lift the gag order) was eagerly anticipated," Gallagher wrote me in a chat. "As for some time the prosecution has been abusing its power to request the sealing of documents, simply in order to block media scrutiny."

The order has lasted until just a week before Brown's re-arraignment. Calculations about the time he'll supposedly serve have become clearer. They plummeted in the past two months, after a bulk of charges were dismissed.

Brown has served nearly 20 months in prison, and it's likely that he will have that time taken off his sentence.

"Under federal guidelines, he's also eligible for three months credit per each year served," Gallagher said, which lends to an optimistic estimate that Brown could be just 7 months shy from freedom. "While we welcome the sunshine, some aspects of this case, such as the detention hearing, still remain sealed for no justifiable reason."

A re-arraignment for Brown will take place in the Dallas federal courthouse next Tuesday, at which point the next step will be for the court to set a sentencing date.