The American who helped New Zealand
teen hacker Owen Thor Walker mount an electronic attack on an
internet server, has been sentenced to 90 days in prison and five
years of probation.
US District Judge Michael Baylson sentenced Ryan Goldstein, 22,
of Philadelphia, to 90 days in a halfway house followed by 180 days
of house arrest, the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper reported.
He ruled that the defendant, a university student, could serve
his sentence during a leave of absence from school or during the
Goldstein, who told the judge he had suffered a “computer
addiction” since he was 12, was also fined $US30,000 ($NZ50,400)
and prohibited from using a computer for five years except for work
or school activities.
In February, Goldstein admitted to a single misdemeanour count of
aiding and abetting Walker, an 18-year-old Whitianga hacker known as
AKILL – in gaining unauthorised access to a University of
Pennsylvania computer server by using a botnet.
The New Zealander was discharged without conviction at the High
Court in Hamilton last July after admitting six cyber crime charges:
both crown lawyer Ross Douch and defence lawyer Tony Balme told the
court that police were interested in using Walker’s skills on the
right side of the law.
Justice Judith Potter ordered Walker to pay $9526 as his half
share of the damage caused to the university computer and other
costs of $5000,and ordered him to hand over his computer-related
assets to police.
Walker was allegedly the mastermind of a “botnet” coding group
and received just under $40,000 for his part in the attacks, which
included a global adware scheme and the collapse of a computer
server at the American university. The botnet was a network of home
PCs that had been commandeered secretly by the hackers.
Goldstein and Walker used the university computer system as a
staging ground for a 50,000-computer attack, said
Assistant US Attorney Michael Levy.
After Goldstein was arrested, he began cooperating with
authorities, and his information led to Walker, who installed
malicious software on 1.3 million computers worldwide, investigators
Levy, who prosecutes about two computer-hacking cases a year,
told the newspaper that Goldstein’s cooperation “in the online
hacking world was very useful” and led to at least seven other
Judge Baylson, however, said he felt some jail time was necessary
for Goldstein because the FBI also found more than 1000 images of
child pornography on his computer. Prosecutors had decided not to
charge Goldstein with child pornography in return for his
Later in the day, the judge commented on unfairness in sentencing
when he sentenced another man, Derrick Williams, 32, of
Philadelphia, to a heavy prison sentence the same day for the same
“It seems very unfair,” he said. “I want to note for the
record that Goldstein is white and Williams is African
American and that adds to my discomfort,” said Baylson. Both men
had roughly 1000 images of child pornography on their computers, the
Both men were then sentenced, both men one right after the other,
with Williams getting only two years, instead of the eight to 10
years recommended by sentencing guidelines.
Goldstein, who faced up to a year in prison, had been hoping for
no prison time after his lawyer, Ronald Levine, said his client was
“filled with constant guilt and remorse”.
After the sentence was handed down, Goldstein was initially
stoic, but tears streamed down his face as he left the courtroom.