Internet activist Jeremy Hammond has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to hacking the server of private intelligence firm Stratfor and releasing millions of emails to Wikileaks.
During the trial, 28-year-old Hammond admitted to being part of the hacktivist collective Anonymous. The release of emails is seen as one of Anonymous' biggest coups, described by Hammond as the "digital equivalent of a nuclear bomb".
Correspondences between Stratfor executives brought to light civil liberties issues by revealing that the firm had been hired by government agencies to monitor political protestors and animal rights activists. This has provoked many, including Hammond himself, to defend his actions as a form of public service.
In a statement given before sentencing on Friday, Hammond said: "The acts of civil disobedience and direct action that I am being sentenced for today are in line with the principles of community and equality that have guided my life. I hacked into dozens of high profile corporations and government institutions, understanding very clearly that what I was doing was against the law, and that my actions could land me back in federal prison.
"But I felt that I had an obligation to use my skills to expose and confront injustice—and to bring the truth to light. I tried everything from voting, petitions, and peaceful protests," Hammond added. "(But) I believe sometimes laws must be broken to exact change."
Speaking with the Guardian last week, Hammond said: "They have made it clear they are trying to send a message to others who come after me. A lot of it is because they got slapped around, they were embarrassed by Anonymous and they feel that they need to save face."