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Judge Denies Capital One Hacker's Release From Prison Due To ‘Danger’ She Poses

By Anna.Kaplan@thedailybeast.com (Anna Kaplan)
Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero/The Daily Beast/Getty

A federal judge ruled Friday that the hacker charged with conducting a massive data breach at Capital One will remain in detention because she has been deemed a danger to the community. 

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michelle Peterson determined that Paige Thompson, 33, poses both a physical and financial risk to others. Thompson has threatened to provoke her own suicide through police involvement, and has threatened to shoot up an unnamed social media company in California, a threat that Peterson deemed to be legitimate. She also found that Thompson’s hacking skills could risk further financial damage to other potential victims, including banking institutions. 

Thompson, who goes by the online handle “erratic,” was arrested last month after the FBI said she obtained information from tens of millions of people who applied for Capital One credit cards, including 77,000 bank account numbers and over a million U.S. and Canadian social security numbers.

Thompson, a transgender woman, has been held in the men’s unit in the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, Washington, which Peterson said was a concern that would favor her release from detention. However, Peterson ultimately decided that the dangers Thompson poses outweighed those worries, along with a risk of nonappearance due to lack of ties to the community in Seattle. 

Thompson’s lawyer, Mohammad Ali Hamoudi, asked for her to be released to a halfway house with GPS monitoring, where she could receive better resources for mental health care, according to court documents. Hamoudi argued that federal prisons aren’t well-equipped to handle those in pre-trial detention with mental health issues and that Thompson’s history of being suicidal puts her at risk. The legal team cited Jeffrey Epstein’s recent suicide as an example.

Thompson’s lawyers included a psychiatric evaluation from Dr. Matt Goldenberg that noted Thompson’s transgender identity could make her vulnerable to abuse while detained.

“The risk of being continuously misgendered and becoming a target for intimidation by other inmates is likely increased in a male facility,” Goldenberg wrote. “Longterm placement in a men’s facility will likely increase Paige’s gender dysphoria, depression, and risk of suicide.”

Thompson’s lawyers also filed a letter of support from the American Civil Liberties Union that urged her release from the men’s facility.

“The conditions that many transgender women face in prison result in lifelong trauma, adverse health consequences, and at times, death,” ACLU attorney Chase Strangio wrote to the court. “Too many end up being abused or engaging in self-harm in the midst of trauma and emotional crisis.”

However, the prosecutors claim that Thompson is a flight risk and a danger to herself and others, and have requested for her to remain in jail due to a string of alarming social media posts and police complaints. They said she has “a long history of threatening behavior that includes repeated threats to kill others, to kill herself, and to commit suicide by cop.” They also added that in May, police investigated after she made threats to shoot up an unidentified social media company in California.

“In today’s America, it is easy enough to obtain firearms, and there is every reason to be concerned that Thompson, who repeatedly has threatened to kill, would obtain the means to carry out, and carry out, her threats—particularly when confronted with the alternative of near-certain conviction and imprisonment,” federal prosecutors said.

The U.S. also claims that Thompson hacked into at least 30 other companies, educational institutions, and other entities. Authorities are still investigating “multiple terabytes” of data to see what information was stolen. Prosecutors said they expect to add additional charges as victims are identified and notified.

The Capital One theft “was only one part of her criminal conduct,” according to the prosecution.

Capital One’s lawyers haven’t weighed in on the case, and its press office didn’t respond to requests for comment on Thompson’s detention.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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