SACRAMENTO Former Reuters.com Deputy Social Media Editor Matthew Keys pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to federal charges that he aided members of the Anonymous hacking collective.
Keys, 26, on Monday said he was fired by Thomson Reuters (TRI.TO), the parent company of Reuters News.
Keys was indicted in March by a federal grand jury in Sacramento on three criminal counts, alleging he entered an Internet chatroom used by members of the hacking collective Anonymous and helped hackers gain access to the computer system of Tribune Co. in December 2010. A story on the Tribune's Los Angeles Times website was altered by one of those hackers, the indictment said.
The alleged events occurred before he joined Reuters in 2012, the indictment indicated.
Keys was silent during the hearing in federal district court in Sacramento as his lawyer Jay Leiderman entered the plea. A status conference was set for June 12.
"He was a journalist in that chatroom, absolutely, but he didn't do the acts he was accused of doing," Leiderman told reporters outside the courtroom. It appeared as if someone else assumed Keys' chatroom identity, he said.
Since the indictment, Keys has continued to tweet about himself and about news events. Thomson Reuters has confirmed that he no longer works at the company.
The maximum for conviction on all three counts would be 25 years in prison, although actual sentences handed down by judges are often far less than the maximum.
In his job at Reuters, Keys posted news from Reuters and other sources on both company Twitter feeds and other means, including his own Twitter account.
He was suspended from Reuters after last month's indictment and his access to his Reuters email account was cut off. He continued to tweet from a personal account, @TheMatthewKeys, and identified himself as an editor at Reuters.
Keys in a blog post on Monday wrote that his coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing last week — such as tweeting information from police scanners that ended up being incorrect — was one of the reasons he was given for his termination. He has changed his profile description to "Former Deputy Social Media Editor at @Reuters".
A Thomson Reuters spokeswoman declined to comment.
The case in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, is United States of America v. Matthew Keys, 13-82. The case in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, is United States of America v. Matthew Keys, 13-82.
(Reporting By Peter Henderson; Editing by Martin Howell)