Matt DeHart’s long saga of government persecution, including FBI torture, refused asylum, and seized property, continues today as Matt has been cornered into taking a plea agreement to avoid a decades-long prison sentence. The deal, in which the government would recommend Matt be sentenced to a total of seven and a half years — minus his three and a half years of time served — was Matt’s only hope to prevent something even worse: the government’s initial recommendation of forty years in jail or the charges’ maximum, of seventy years and a half-million-dollar fine.
Under the deal, Matt would have to plead guilty to receiving teen “pornography,” consisting of messages dated from 2008 that the US government decided to charge years later after they became aware that Matt discovered sensitive military files had been uploaded to a server he ran and that he was a WikiLeaks and Anonymous supporter.
Matt could fight the charges in court, but he has already endured substantial abuse, and the judge has sided with the government at nearly every turn. Most recently, Matt’s judge denied a motion to dismiss charges based on a vindictive prosecution, despite the government’s overreach and lengthy delays. Furthermore, the federal judicial system is stacked against defendants: The conviction rate in federal criminal trials is 93%.
Matt’s father, Paul DeHart, has cited Aaron Swartz’s case as a turning point in the family’s fear of egregious prosecution. Swartz committed suicide after facing more than 50 years in jail for rapidly downloading publicly available JSTOR documents. Similarly, in Matt’s case, the government threatened an extremely long prison sentence of several decades — a highly disproportionate sentence for the allegations against him.
The government is likely agreeing to this deal in order to be done with Matt DeHart’s case, to prevent a drawn-out trial in which Matt’s political activity, the files he unearthed and the treatment he endured could come to light.
This deal is not the end of the road: as Matt’s lawyer Tor Ekeland says, “The court is not bound by the recommendations of the government and can impose any sentence it wishes up to the statutory maximum. Customarily, however, courts sentence according to the parameters of a plea agreement between the government and defendant.”
Further, we have to prevent future retaliation, like the solitary confinement suffered by Barrett Brown, Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond. Matt has already been tortured during interrogation and imprisoned for years before trial. We must keep Matt’s sentencing in the public eye as only significant scrutiny will prevent further abuse and ensure as fair a trial as possible.
See the full plea deal below: