Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Barrett Brown sentencing hearing transcripts cost at least $1,650

2/12/15 Update: "[W]e're ready to place the order before the end of this week," FreeBarrett announced on Twitter yesterday, regarding the sentencing hearing transcripts. Brown isn't appealing the sentence for technical reasons, which include alleged mistakes made by the court regarding the complicated federal "grouping" guidelines, and because he "signed away his right to appeal." On January 30, @FreeBarrett_ tweeted that "a pardon campaign is on the table." Brown wrote about his case and the sentencing for the first time "freely" in a story called "My Post Cyberpunk Indentured Servitude", published by The Daily Beast on January 31. He said that he "agreed to plea to the spurious make-believe crimes...so as to avoid the perils of a Texas jury." The transcripts should help Brown "produce a far more comprehensive account of this whole affair later this year." He joked, "If anyone needs me in the meantime, I’ll be in prison."

Update at bottom: Judge claims court's actions are "fully reflected in the transcript of the hearing", even though there is no "transcript of the hearing", yet; order gets date wrong

Charyse Crawford, Court Reporter for District Judge Sam A. Lindsay, shed some light on the high cost of court transcripts in Texas, even if a journalist places the order.

The extremely friendly and helpful Court Reporter told me on the phone Monday afternoon that the initial cost is $3.65 per page, and the transcripts for hearings last week and in December won't even be written up, until someone makes a formal order for them. She said that Barrett Brown's defense attorneys have 14 days to appeal the decision, and that as soon as she gets notice of appeal, she will check her schedule and begin the transcription process, which could take up to thirty days.

Supporters of Barrett Brown @FreeBarrett_ tweeted a plea for donations to help pay for the cost.

Crawford told me that the December 16th hearing would be approximately 250 pages, and the January 22nd one would be around 200 pages, so at $3.65 a page, it would cost at least $1,650. After the initial order, members of the public or journalists get the reduced rate of 90 cents a page.

I was kind of shocked to learn that court transcripts aren't provided unless ordered. At least in Texas, that is.

After I tweeted, "I guess US court system doesn't want media outlets using transcripts to accurately report on convictions," a member of Brown's open source journalism group, Project PM, who uses the name @subverzo on Twitter responded, "As has been evidenced with social media coming into the mix, they do not like people watching. Period."

Brown - a journalist who "embedded" into Anonymous was sentenced to over five years in jail last Thursday after pleading guilty to charges that he "threatened" an FBI agent, hid his laptops from a search warrant, and contacted a security firm that had been hacked to somehow "distract" from the actual hacker - has already spent close to two and a half years locked up. But he has been doing some highly praised journalism and satire behind bars for various media outlets, and has already been guaranteed a job with D Magazine, after he is released.

Whether or not Barrett Brown received extra time for linking to a Stratfor credit card info download dump in December of 2011 has been hotly debated on Twitter since last Thursday's hearing, and supporters hope a transcript will help answer questions about it.

Two of Barrett Brown's lawyers seem to be at odds themselves over how much the dismissed credit card info linking charges added to the sentence.

"The reason all of us originally came on this case was the theft charges...and in the end, all of those charges were dismissed without a hearing," Charles Swift told journalists after the sentencing. "And so in a way, although I do not think that, in the end, it had a significant effect on Mr. Brown’s sentence, we are more upset about the potential precedent that it sets on a government that seeks to further and further expand criminality in an effort to control political activity. And so it is the precedent that is set that is most worrisome in that part."

According to Marlo Cadeddu, Brown received an additional year for the expunged linking charges, but since 4 years were for the "threats", the math seems shaky to many observers, pro or con.

Nearly a week after the sentencing hearing, Judge Lindsay issued an order explaining the "manner in which it calculated the advisory guidelines during the sentencing hearing in this case on January 16, 2015."

However, as I reported, there is no transcript, yet, and the hearings took place on December 16, 2014 and January 22, 2015. If the judge has his own transcript already, then it should cost only ninety cents a page to place an order for it, as explained to me by his Court Reporter.

The judge also gets the date wrong, further down in his January 28 order, when he adds, "With respect to Defendant's inquiry during the January 16, 2015 sentencing hearing regarding the return of his copy of the Declaration of Independence, Defendant's counsel acknowledged that this is one of the items that Defendant agreed to forfeit as part of his Plea Agreement. Upon further reflection, however, the court can think of no reason why Defendant should have to forfeit his copy of the Declaration of Independence, as it was not used to commit any of the crimes of which he was convicted or used in conjunction with any of these crimes. Thus, notwithstanding the agreement between the parties, the court declines to accept the portion of the Plea Agreement that requires Defendant to forfeit his copy of the Declaration of Independence. Accordingly, the court orders the Government to return Defendant's copy of the Declaration of Independence to his counsel within ten (10) days of the date of this order.

(Editor's Note: I helped provide some research for the Free Barrett website, but I've continued to report objectively and sometimes critically on Brown and his defense.)