On Monday, May 24, 2010, Los Angeles Federal District Judge Gary Allen Feess sentenced Brian Thomas Mettenbrink of Grand Island, Nebraska, to 12 months in federal prison and a $20,000 restitution fine for engaging in a cyberattack in January 2008 on Church of Scientology websites (CR No. 09-1149-GAF). Mettenbrink is a member of the hate group “Anonymous,” many members of which have been investigated or convicted of federal and state crimes over the past three years.
Scientology.org, the attacked website, is the central information site of the worldwide religion. According to the federal prosecutor’s sentencing memorandum, Mettenbrink “maliciously participated in a scheme to damage a computer belonging to the Church of Scientology.” The Department of Justice prosecutor stated, “Our free society will cease to function if a malicious few are free to target individuals because of their religious beliefs.”
Noting that the acts were “in the nature of a hate crime” because the target was a religious organization, Judge Feess further ordered that during probation following his jail sentence, Mettenbrink must stay 100 yards away from any Church of Scientology. Judge Feess also stated the “nature and circumstances are serious” and that a sentence higher than the federal guidelines was necessary and warranted “to protect the public” from further criminal conduct.
Mettenbrink is the second Anonymous member to be sentenced in the last seven months for the January 2008 cyberattack. In November 2009, Dmitriy Guzner of Verona, New Jersey, was sentenced by Newark U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Greenaway to a 366-day prison term, plus two years probation. Guzner was also ordered to pay $37,500 restitution to the Church. A Department of Justice press release issued at the time charges were filed against Guzner stated “According to the criminal information filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles, Guzner participated in the attack because he considered himself a member of an underground group called ‘Anonymous.’”