Ohio man pleads not guilty to Pitt threat charges

Joe Mandak

Joe Mandak –

Associated Press

An Ohio man charged with conspiracy for allegedly claiming to be part of the computer hacking group “Anonymous” and posting a YouTube threat to release confidential computer information belonging to the University of Pittsburgh pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.

Alexander Waterland, 24, of Loveland, Ohio, and his attorney declined comment after his 15-minute arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Maureen Kelly.

A federal grand jury earlier this month indicted Waterland and Brett Hudson, 26, of Hillsboro, Ohio, on charges they posted the threats in April and May. Online court records don’t list an attorney for Hudson, who is scheduled to be arraigned in Pittsburgh on Sept. 6. Hudson has previously told The Associated Press he won’t comment on the charges.

Although Pitt officials later determined their computer information was never hacked, the threats claimed it was and the FBI determined that Waterland and/or Hudson had downloaded some personal information from students and faculty and emailed some of it to Pitt officials to “prove” the hacking had occurred.

Using the “Anonymous” moniker, the suspects threatened that 200 gigabytes of hacked information would be publicized unless Chancellor Mark Nordenberg apologized for not safeguarding students whose information was allegedly stolen. Otherwise, the threat said, the students’ user names and passwords would be publicized, too.

The hacking threats were received just as the university has finished dealing with dozens of bomb threats, most of them emailed, that plagued the campus from February through April and caused some students to stay off campus, forced professors to move or cancel some classes, and prompted dozens of buildings to be evacuated.

Although not directly related, investigators believe the hacking threats were meant to capitalize on the unease created by the bomb threats. One of the hacking threats even addressed that issue saying, “We also would like to mention that we have no ties with the current bomb threats as we do not condone violence or harm to any person. This would directly violate our ‘rules’ of engagement,” according to the indictment.

The Ohio men were charged by the FBI the same day as 64-year-old Adam Stuart Busby, of Dublin, Ireland, a disabled man and convicted hoaxer who is charged with sending 17 of the emailed bomb threats to the university.

A founder of the Scottish National Liberation Army, an outlawed militant group that seeks Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, Busby is in an Irish prison on charges he threatened to poison the water supply of some English cities and then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2010.

It’s not clear when he’ll be brought to the United States to face the Pitt charges, though that’s not likely to occur until the current charges are resolved in the United


Waterland remains free on bond, and his attorney asked if he might be allowed to use the Internet to find a new job. He and Hudson both worked for Express Scripts, an online prescription drug company in Mason, Ohio, when the hacking threats were made. The FBI said it traced the video threat and two related messages to a computer at Waterland’s apartment; a wireless device owned by Express Scripts; and Waterland’s sister’s home in Indian Head, Md.

Kelly agreed to let Waterland use the Internet until he stands trial, provided his computer is monitored by the government.

“It’s absolutely critical … that you use it in a constructive and responsible manner,” the magistrate warned.

“I understand, your honor,” Waterland said. “Thank you.”