Alleged 'Commander X' Anonymous hacker pleads not guilty

Attorney says homeless client was arrested in Mountain View, Calif., coffeehouse and remains in police custody for now.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
3 min read
"Commander X" talked to CBS News this summer on camera, but is the man behind the mask Chris Doyon?
"Commander X" talked to CBS News this summer on camera. But is the man behind the mask Chris Doyon? CBS News

A 47-year-old homeless man has pleaded not guilty to charges that he joined in an Anonymous-organized cyberattack that temporarily shut down Santa Cruz County servers.

Chris Doyon was arrested yesterday and is being held until a bail hearing scheduled for Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., his lawyer, Jay Leiderman, told CNET this afternoon. "Hopefully he will be released on Thursday," Leiderman said.

Also listed as a defendant on the indictment with Doyon is 26-year-old Joshua John Covelli of Fairborn, Ohio. And in a separate case that involves cyberattack charges linked to Anonymous spin-off LulzSec, a 23-year-old Arizona man was arrested yesterday on charges related to the theft of data from Sony earlier this year.

Not much is known about Doyon, except that he is homeless and has been in Mountain View, Calif., for the past few months after living on the streets of Berkeley, according to Leiderman.

"He said they found his 'camp,'" the attorney said. "He's a transient; he moves from place to place."

Doyon entered his not guilty plea yesterday to charges of conspiracy to cause intentional damage to a protected computer, causing intentional damage to a protected computer, and aiding and abetting.

The indictment alleges that Doyon, using the online nickname "Commander X," was part of an online protest organized by the People's Liberation Front--also allegedly associated with Anonymous--that took place December 16, 2010. For the protest, participants used their computers to launch a distributed denial-of-service attack on Santa Cruz County servers, shutting them down temporarily, the indictment says.

The online protest action was taken in response to the arrest on misdemeanor charges of several people who had occupied the Santa Cruz County courthouse last year after the city enacted a law restricting camping within the city limits, according to the Department of Justice.

Leiderman was sketchy on the details of Doyon's arrest and vague on other things. He declined to confirm or deny whether his client is Commander X as the indictment alleges, or if his client has taken part in Anonymous activities as claimed in the indictment.

"Is he Commander X? At this point we're not admitting he is Commander X," Leiderman said. "We are denying that he participated in the attack he is charged with participating in."

"In terms of being a member of Anonymous...it's really tough to say," he said. "If you are asking me if he's an activist and tried to change the world for better. Yes, he did. I don't know if that makes him a member of Anonymous, but he is certainly an activist working on social change for the betterment of mankind."

Leiderman said he did not know if Doyon has his own computer, but assumes so.

"He e-mailed me, which led me to believe that he had a computer or access to a computer, but he was living out in the woods so I don't know," the attorney said. "I believe they busted him in a coffeehouse."

"I've known him for a couple of months and I think I was probably the only lawyer he knew, so when he had some trouble he gave me a call," Leiderman said.

Asked what state of mind Doyon was in after his arrest, the attorney said: "He's in good spirits. Obviously we're waiting to see what it is the government provides in terms of discovery. Right now all we have is a very bare-bones indictment."

This isn't the first time the words "homeless hacker" have been used to describe someone who was in trouble with the law. At the tender age of 22, Adrian Lamo was arrested for breaking into the networks of the likes of Yahoo, Microsoft, WorldCom, and The New York Times, sometimes alerting companies to the holes in their system. Since then, Lamo has become infamous for turning in alleged WikiLeaker Bradley Manning.