By Bernard Vaughan
NEW YORK, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The chief judge of the U.S.
District Court in Manhattan will hold a hearing next week in
which she will consider demands that she step down from a
high-profile computer hacking case because her husband may have
been among the victims of the cyber attack.
U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska is presiding over the
criminal case against Jeremy Hammond, who is accused of hacking
into the computers of security research company Strategic
Forecasting Inc, or "Stratfor."
Hammond's lawyer, Elizabeth Fink, has filed court papers
seeking Preska's recusal, while the loose-knit cyber-activist
group Anonymous has also issued a statement calling for a new
judge to be put on the case.
Hammond, who prosecutors say was known by the moniker
"Anarchaos," among other nicknames, has been held without bail
since his arrest in March. He has pleaded not guilty to charges
including computer hacking and conspiracy and faces up to 42
years in prison if convicted.
A work email address for the judge's husband, Thomas
Kavaler, a partner at law firm Cahill Gordon & Reindel, is
included on a website, http://dazzlepod.com/stratfor, that
purported to list accounts that were stolen from Stratfor
Kavaler, a member of the law firm's executive committee,
said in a December court filing that Stratfor has never been a
client of his or his firm's.
He said he sometimes receives unsolicited emails from the
security firm, but that he never provided Stratfor with his
credit card number or other personal information and has not
knowingly been a Stratfor customer. Stratfor's confidential
clients include multinational companies, foreign governments and
But Fink wrote in a memorandum in support of the recusal
motion that Kavaler's status "as both a victim of the alleged
crimes of the accused and an attorney to many other victims
creates an appearance of partiality too strong to be
disregarded, requiring disqualification."
Major Cahill Gordon clients, including Merrill Lynch & Co
and American International Group Inc, were also victims of the
Stratfor attack, Fink wrote.
A hearing is set for Feb. 21. Judge Preska and Kavaler
declined to comment.
Fink and a spokesman for Stratfor also declined to comment.
The U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, which is
prosecuting the case, has filed papers opposing the recusal
motion. The office declined to make further comment.
Hammond was among five people charged last year in a
wide-ranging case tied to the Anonymous group, which has wreaked
havoc on the websites of government agencies and large
corporations. Preska is presiding over all of the cases.
A sixth person, Hector Monsegur, pleaded guilty in 2011 to
hacking-related charges and has been cooperating with
Prosecutors said Hammond was a member of an
Anonymous-affiliated group that mounted a "cyber assault" on
Stratfor from December 2011 until about March 2012, according to
a superseding indictment. The group, AntiSec, stole
approximately 60,000 credit card numbers, some of which they
used to make at least $700,000 worth of charges, prosecutors
The case is USA v. Ackroyd, U.S. District Court in
Manhattan, No. 12-00185.
For Hammond: Elizabeth Fink.
For the government: Rosemary Nidiry and Thomas Brown, U.S.
Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York.
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