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Reuters journalist accused in hacking conspiracy refutes charges

A Reuters editor accused of conspiring with hackers to deface a Los Angeles Times story issued a comment to refute the charges.

On his Facebook page Tuesday, Matthew Keys wrote: "I did not give a username and a password to anyone. I did not "conspire" to "cause damage to a protected computer." I did not cause "transmission of malicious code," and I did not "attempt" to cause "transmission of malicious code.""

He continued: "My attorneys have said much of the same over the past few days, but I feel it might mean more coming from me directly."

Last week, Keys' attorney, Jay Leiderman, said the journalist didn't commit the crimes he's accused of. But even assuming that he did, Leiderman said that it was an Internet prank, and that shouldn't land anyone in prison for 25 years.

"No one was hurt, there were no lasting injuries, no one's identify was stolen, lives weren't ruined," said Leiderman. "It was a joke, and I guess a joke will get you 25 years in prison."

Federal authorities allege Keys provided the hacking group Anonymous with login information to access the Tribune Co.'s computer system. Tribune is the Times' parent company.

According to an indictment handed down Thursday, the hacker altered a Times news story posted in December 2010 to reference another hacking group.

The below correspondence, released by the Department of Justice, is allegedly between Keys, using the screenname "AESCracked," and the hacker, using the screen name "sharpie."

The entire indictment can be seen here.

The hack occurred after Keys was fired from a Sacramento television station also owned by Tribune.

Keys was charged with one count each of conspiracy to transmit information to damage a protected computer, as well as transmitting and attempting to transmit that information. If convicted, the New Jersey native faces a combined 25 years prison and a $500,000 fine if sentenced to the maximum for each count. He is scheduled for arraignment April 12 in Sacramento.

Reuters had hired Keys in 2012 as a deputy editor for social media. David Girardin, a spokesman for the news agency, told AP in an email Friday that Keys was suspended Thursday with pay. He did not elaborate.

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