(Please note that paragraph six contains language that may be offensive to some readers)

By Sharon Bernstein

(Reuters) – A lawyer for journalist Matthew Keys, accused of aiding members of the Anonymous hacking collective, told a jury on Tuesday that the U.S. government had not proven the criminal charges it filed

over the incident.

Keys was indicted in 2013 on three criminal counts, including conspiracy to cause damage to a protected computer. The indictment accused Keys of giving hackers access to Tribune Co. computer systems in December 2010. Keys had just left a job at a Tribune-owned television station in Sacramento, Calif., after a dispute with a supervisor.

A story on the Tribune’s Los Angeles Times website was soon altered by one of those hackers, the indictment said. A Tribune spokesman declined to comment.

The alleged events in the indictment occurred before Keys joined Thomson Reuters as a Reuters.com editor in 2012, and a month after Keys was charged he said Reuters dismissed him. A Thomson Reuters representative declined to comment.

Keys went to trial in a Sacramento federal courtroom last week, and Keys’s attorneys called no witnesses. Both sides on Tuesday delivered their closing arguments.

The government introduced evidence that Keys had told hackers in an online chatroom: “I want you to fuck some shit up.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Hemesath said Keys was clearly a player in what happened.

“He passed along a password, and then he told them what to do,” Hemesath said.

But Keys’s lawyer, Jason Leiderman, said prosecutors had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Keys knew they were hackers who would act at his urging. Leiderman said Keys was operating as a professional reporter trying to gather information about members of Anonymous.

Anonymous is an amorphous group that often conducts multiple hacking campaigns at once.

“This is a journalist trying to get a story,” Leiderman said.

The government also played videotaped excerpts of an interview Keys gave to FBI agents when they visited his apartment early one morning, before he was charged.

Asked if he used his Tribune credentials to log on to the company’s systems after he was no longer an employee, Keys said in the video: “I did it. I can’t deny it. I’m not going to lie about it now.”

Keys had asked before trial that the video be suppressed, but a judge allowed it into evidence.

Leiderman said that even if jurors believed Keys took some of the actions alleged by the government, he should still be acquitted because the damage to the LA Times website was not expensive enough for it to qualify as a felony.

(Writing by Dan Levine; Editing by Ken Wills)

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