U.S. News

Massachusetts man convicted of cyber attack on hospital

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts man was convicted on Wednesday of carrying out a cyber attack on a Boston hospital’s network on behalf of the hacking activist group Anonymous in protest of its treatment of a teenager at the center of a high-profile custody dispute.

A federal jury in Boston found Martin Gottesfeld, 32, guilty of one count of conspiracy to damage protected computers and one count of damaging protected computers, prosecutors said.

Gottesfeld, who is in federal custody, is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 14. In a statement posted to YouTube that was recorded in case he was convicted, Gottesfeld said he plans to challenge the verdict.

He also accused prosecutors of ignoring what happened to the teen at the center of the case and of “not telling you the full truth.”

“I’m going to keep fighting,” he said. “I’m not going to give up.”

Prosecutors said that in late 2013, Gottesfeld, a computer systems engineer living in Somerville, Massachusetts, learned about a child custody dispute involving a Connecticut teenager named Justina Pelletier.

Pelletier had been taken into state custody in Massachusetts after a dispute over her diagnosis arose between her parents and Boston Children’s Hospital, which determined her health problems were psychiatric in nature and believed her parents were interfering with her treatment.

Her case garnered national headlines and drew the attention of religious and political groups who viewed it as an example of government interference with parental rights.

Gottesfeld, who disagreed with the hospital’s diagnosis, began advocating online for her release, prosecutors said.

They said Gottesfeld in March 2014 launched a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack on a residential treatment facility called Wayside Youth & Family Support Network where Pelletier was a resident following her discharge from the hospital.

DDOS attacks shut down or slow websites by flooding them with data.

He later in April 2014 launched a DDOS attack on behalf of Anonymous on the network of Boston Children’s Hospital that not only knocked it off the internet but also affected several other nearby hospitals, prosecutors said.

Amid a federal investigation into his role in the cyber attacks, Gottesfeld in early 2016 fled, prosecutor said.

In mid-February 2016, a Disney Cruise Line vessel rescued Gottesfeld and his wife from a disabled powerboat off the coast of Cuba, prosecutors said. He was arrested when the cruise ship returned to Miami.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston