Man admits helping launch cyberattack on a Mo. county police union website
The attack took down the St. Louis County Police Association website from three Twitter accounts that he controlled
By Robert Patrick
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — A former employee of the Veterans Affairs Records Management Center on Friday admitted helping launch a cyberattack that disabled a St. Louis County police union website.
Justin E. Payne, 33, admitted promoting an attack on Dec. 2 that took down the St. Louis County Police Association website from three Twitter accounts that he controlled. The accounts were associated with the "Rebel but Gangster" or RbG Black Rebels, according to his plea, and Payne's tweets were re-tweeted by others. Payne also threatened police in a Jan. 26 tweet that read in part,
"Next time I get pulled over by the police I’m shooting first," his plea says.
The website has since been restored.
The FBI traced the cyberattack to Payne, and when they arrested him March 30, they found a gun and a very small amount of marijuana in his car and a Molotov cocktail in his trunk.
The Molotov cocktail led to a felony charge of possession of an unregistered destructive device.
The cyberattack, a so-called distributed denial of service attack designed to overwhelm a website with traffic, resulted in a misdemeanor charge of damaging a protected computer.
In exchange for his guilty plea to both charges, both sides agreed to a 18-month prison sentence when Payne is sentenced Dec. 7. U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey still has to agree, however.
Defense lawyer Joel Schwartz declined comment.
Schwartz and Payne had successfully challenged some of the statements that Payne made in an FBI interview after his arrest.
On Aug. 24, U.S. Magistrate Judge Shirley Mensah ruled that the interview should have ended after Payne indicated that he was not consenting to speaking to them without a lawyer present.
His plea says that Payne initially suggested that his account may have been hacked. Later, he denied being involved in a cyberattack but said he re-tweeted things all the time and said, “I was not aware it was a crime to re-tweet stuff.” Even later, he said that the tool used in the attack was created in Pakistan, his plea says.
In a hearing earlier this year, Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Lang said that some of Payne's other tweets were “part of his larger anti-police and anti-government movement that he promoted on Twitter and by damaging a police website.”
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