Homeless activist indicted for county cyber attack: Voice of 2010 protests swept up in nationwide crackdown

SC Sentinel:   09/22/2011

SANTA CRUZ – A homeless activist who appears to have been instrumental in last year’s Santa Cruz camping ban protests was arrested Thursday for allegedly hacking Santa Cruz County computers in December, federal authorities allege.

A federal grand jury’s indictment of Mountain View resident Christopher Doyon, 47, appears to be part of a nationwide crackdown on the hacker community. A second man also has been implicated in the attack, which authorities say was planned as retribution for the breakup of a lengthy protest over the city’s controversial camping ban.

According to the indictment, Doyon and Joshua John Covelli, a 26-year-old Fairborn, Ohio resident, hatched “Operation Peace Camp 2010” on behalf of the Massachusetts-based group Peoples Liberation Front, which claimed credit for the attack and has been linked to the hacker group Anonymous.

Anonymous has been linked to a number of online hacking attacks worldwide, and played an instrumental role in a recent series of BART protests. Their members often appear in public wearing masks, particularly of the British 17th century revolutionary Guy Fawkes.

The county government computer attacks resulted in users not being able to access the county’s website. No information was compromised or disseminated, county authorities said.

The city’s controversial camping ban resulted in a two-month protest, called “Peace Camp 2010,” on the steps of the county government building, ending in front of Santa Cruz City Hall.

Ultimately, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office moved in early in the morning to break up the protest.

In letters posted on Peace Camp’s blog, Doyon also described himself as homeless and some news reports on Thursday also described him as such, though federal authorities could not confirm it. Authorities could provide no details on his arrest.

“All I know is that it went without incident,” FBI spokeswoman Julie Sohn said.

A Chris Doyon of the same age was quoted in a Sentinel article last year about the camping ban protest, saying he believed people had the right to sleep wherever they choose.

Doyon was also one of five people ultimately charged with illegal camping, though he never showed up for trial. Prosecutor Sara Dabkowski said in May that a bench warrant had been issued for his arrest, but no further information was available Thursday.

Doyon once described himself as a spokesman for the group. At the time, he said he grew up in Maine and moved west to follow the Grateful Dead. He also vowed not to give up protesting the camping ban.

“This is a fight about aesthetics,” he was quoted as saying. “One man’s garbage is another man’s belongings. I think millionaires are unaesthetic; I think Hummers are disgusting. You see the ridiculousness. This is class warfare.”

The FBI and U.S. attorney’s office offered scant information, but the indictments appear to part of a broader net cast by federal authorities.

Also Thursday, the FBI’s Los Angeles office announced it had arrested a Phoenix man on charges he hacked Sony Pictures Entertainment’s website.

Cody Kretsinger, 23, was arrested without incident, based on a Sept. 2 federal grand jury indictment unsealed Thursday. The indictment alleges Kretsinger carried out the attack as part of the group “LulzSec,” which has also been linked to Anonymous.

An FBI official told FoxNews.com that search warrants were being executed in Minnesota, New Jersey and Montana.

Covelli was previously indicted in July for allegedly hacking into PayPal. He was not arrested Thursday, and his next scheduled court appearance in the earlier case is set for November.

Both Doyon and Covelli were charged with conspiracy to cause intentional damage to a protected computer, which carried a maximum of five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, causing intentional damage to a protected computer and aiding and abetting, which can carry a sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.

Any sentence is subject to federal sentencing guidelines.

Doyon made a brief court appearance Thursday. He next scheduled appearance is Sept. 29.