By Bernard Vaughan
NEW YORK, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The judge overseeing the
criminal case against accused computer hacker Jeremy Hammond has
denied his lawyers' motion to have her recused from the case.
U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska issued her ruling just
hours after holding a hearing on the issue Thursday.
Prosecutors have accused Hammond of hacking into the
computers of security research company Strategic Forecasting
Inc, or "Stratfor." Hammond had demanded that Preska turn over
the case to another judge after the name of her husband, Cahill
Gordon & Reindel partner Thomas Kavaler, appeared on a list of
possible victims of the alleged cyber attack.
The government says Hammond is affiliated with the hacking
group Anonymous, which had also issued a statement calling for a
new judge to be put on the case.
In her denial, Preska wrote that the motion filed by
Hammond's attorneys, led by Elizabeth Fink, was "replete with
conclusory, hearsay allegations pertaining to Mr. Kavaler's
status as a victim of the Stratfor Hack and as a party with
financial interests in this matter."
The hack did not injure her husband and, further, Kavaler
provided a sworn statement that Stratfor had never been a client
of his or his firm's, Preska wrote.
Kavaler also had not knowingly been a Stratfor customer and
never provided Stratfor with his credit card number or other
personal information, Preska wrote, citing her husband's
Hammond's attorneys had also argued that Kavaler could have
a financial interest in the matter because clients of Cahill
Gordon's were also victims of the alleged Stratfor attack. But
they failed to show that those clients, including Merrill Lynch
& Co and American International Group Inc, were victimized
beyond the disclosure of email addresses, Preska wrote.
"Defendant's attempt to draw such a link is futile," Preska
At the hearing earlier Thursday, Preska had appeared
skeptical of the arguments of Hammond's attorneys.
"You haven't closed the circle," Preska said at the hearing,
of the connection between Cahill Gordon and its clients who were
allegedly hacked. "What's the connection to this case?"
Thomas Brown, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, said
at the hearing that the defense was engaging in "rank
speculation" by arguing Kavaler could have a personal connection
with clients affected by the Stratfor attack even if his firm
isn't representing them over the matter.
"The defense is grasping at straws at this point," he said.
Fink and Sarah Kunstler, another attorney for Hammond, were
not immediately available for comment on the ruling.
Hammond has pleaded not guilty to charges including computer
hacking and conspiracy and faces up to 42 years in prison if
The next court date in the case is April 10.
The case is USA v. Ackroyd, U.S. District Court in
Manhattan, No. 12-00185.
For Hammond: Elizabeth Fink and Sarah Kunstler.
For the government: Rosemary Nidiry and Thomas Brown, U.S.
Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York.
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