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'Homeless hacker' free pending court date

Adrian Lamo, who won notoriety for his public claims of electronic intrusions, is jailed then released to face federal hacking charges Friday.

NEW YORK--Adrian Lamo, who won notoriety for his public claims of electronic intrusions, was jailed here on Thursday afternoon and then released to face federal hacking charges Friday.

Lamo, 22, surrendered to the FBI at 1 p.m. and subsequently was turned over to the U.S. Marshals Service in preparation for an arraignment before a federal magistrate judge.

In a telephone interview Thursday evening, the so-called homeless hacker said he spent most of the day in handcuffs but he was grateful that the government chose not to jail him overnight. During his time in custody, Lamo said, he was taken to a local hospital for a checkup because of long-standing health problems caused by a lack of medical and dental care.

"I needed a medical clearance because of a tooth infection and severe lack of sleep," Lamo said. "Then I was released into (my attorney's) custody. The FBI was very cooperative in that regard. They had someone from the defender's office sign off on a receipt saying I had been placed in their custody."

Lamo, something of a legend among hackers for his brazen exploits, media savvy and rootless lifestyle, is facing two criminal charges. One charge alleges he illegally entered the network of The New York Times, viewed confidential employee records, and created a false administrator account. The other charge alleges he ran up about $300,000 in search charges on the paper's Lexis-Nexis account.

Lamo's trip to New York came after five days of unusual negotiations with the U.S. government that led to an arranged surrender in Sacramento, Calif., on Tuesday and hurriedly arranged plane reservations on a red-eye flight leaving the West Coast late Wednesday. Because the alleged intrusions happened to a New York company, the prosecution is taking place here.

Because Lamo missed his connecting flight, he showed up after 9 a.m.--the scheduled time for him to surrender to federal authorities. The delay meant Lamo was unable to be arraigned and released the same day, which he and his defense attorney had expected.

The magistrate clerk's office and the U.S. Attorney's office said at 5 p.m. that Lamo would be held in jail overnight because he had not been delivered to the courthouse in time. But Lamo's public defender managed to win the overnight release of his client a short while later.

Lamo has earned the "homeless hacker" moniker for his decision not to hold down a permanent job and instead wander the U.S. on Greyhound buses, sleeping on friends' couches and, when necessary, camping in vacant or derelict buildings. In one sign that this week's confrontation with law enforcement was expected, Lamo registered FreeAdrian.com, which only points to an old version of his adrian.adrian.org Web site, a month after the New York Times intrusion.