Computer evidence will vindicate programmer accused of attacking websites, lawyer says

The Star-Ledger, New Jersey/September 16, 2010

Computer evidence will prove the innocence of a programmer on trial for allegedly crippling websites that reported his strange tale of humiliation at the hands of an Internet vigilante group, a defense attorney told jurors in a federal courtroom in Camden this morning. "Computers can't lie, and they don't lie," said John H. Yauch, a federal public defender, in his opening statement. "Be very careful when you hear the ‘people' evidence in this case."

Bruce Raisley, 48, of Monaca, Pa., is accused of retaliating against a two magazine websites for publishing the story and pictures of his being duped into leaving his wife — and then being photographed waiting, flowers in hand, for the arrival of a fictional woman at an airport in 2006. The ruse had been set up by organizers of Perverted Justice, a vigilante group that has exposed pedophiles by having its members pose online as children, and which provided the basis for the now-defunct reality series "To Catch a Predator."

Raisley had originally been a fan of Perverted Justice in his first encounters with members in 2004. But he eventually became a critic of the group's aggressive tactics. The group then allegedly had a volunteer pose as "Holly," a fictional adult woman and engage Raisley in an online romance. Raisley eventually left his wife and arranged to meet "Holly" at the airport. "Holly" never showed — though a photographer sent by the group did.

Later, Radar, Rolling Stone and the Rick A. Ross Institute of New Jersey were all targeted by malware after posting stories that included accounts of the ruse, according to authorities.

Yauch said that although his client did create a program, there's no proof it did what authorities said it did in attacking the website publications. He added that computer evidence forensically collected from hardware recovered in Slovenia will cast doubt onto the federal accusations.

"Why the FBI couldn't find an infected computer in the U.S., I don't know," he said.

Prosecutors argue that Raisley had become a "schoolyard bully" by exporting the virus and forcing them to remove the story of his humiliation.

"Bruce Raisley became the very thing he hated... an Internet vigilante," said Lee Vartan, an assistant U.S. Attorney.

The prosecution opened its case today with a computer forensics expert who provided a simple overview of Internet access, from servers and hacker attacks.

The former website administrators of Rolling Stone and Radar magazines also testified, giving accounts of how their sites slowed or ground to a half after the alleged malware targeted any mention of Raisley's name, or his tale of being taken in by "Holly."

The leader of a group called Corrupted Justice, an online group that shares Raisley's criticism of Perverted Justice, also testified that his site crashed and he later received cryptic messages from a person he took to be Raisley.

"Bruce is not your martyr," read one of the messages Corrupted Justice allegedly received. "Take my name off your website."

Raisley is charged with accessing computers without authorization and faces 10 years in prison. The trial, which began on Wednesday, is expected to last a week.

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