Two and a half years after a denial-of-service attack froze a Boston hospital’s network, the alleged attacker is staging a hunger strike to protest abuse in juvenile behavior modification facilities and political prosecutions by US Attorneys. Today, Martin Gottesfeld entered the seventh day of the strike, demanding renewed investigation of the facilities and an end to federal prosecutions using computer crime laws to target activists.
Gottesfeld has been charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud in connection with a DDoS attack againstBoston Children’s Hospital in April of 2014. A YouTube account controlled by Gottesfeld posted an Anonymous-themed video calling for an attack on that date, an effort dubbed #OpJustina.
The attack was planned as a response to the treatment of Justina Pelletier, a metabolic patient who was controversially placed in state custody in 2013. Doctors claimed the involuntary commitment was necessary for Pelletier’s treatment and health, but the decision was widely criticized, garnering national news and a subsequent lawsuit from Pelletier’s parents. In a statement, Gottesfeld argued that Pelletier’s treatment "qualifies as torture under international law."
The attack was timed to coincide with the hospital’s fundraising drive, bringing down online donation systems just as the hospital was encouraging donors to give. "I also knew from my career experience as a biotech professional that no patients should be harmed if Boston Children’s was knocked offline," Gottesfeld said in the statement.
According to an FBI affidavit, the response and mitigation of the attack cost the hospital more than $300,000. Pelletier was returned to her parents’ custody the following June.
Gottesfeld is currently being held in the Donald D. Wyatt detention facility in Rhode Island while he awaits trial. In February, he was rescued from a distressed sailboat in the Caribbean, a trip that prosecutors interpreted as an attempt to flee the country. At the time of the rescue, the boat contained three laptop computers, a GPS guidance device, and a box of Cuban-stamped cigarettes, among other items.
Reached by The Verge, Gottesfeld said he launched the Anonymous campaign in order to pressure the hospital to release Pelletier before she was seriously harmed. "Like others, I was seriously concerned Justina would never recover physically or mentally from the trauma she was being put through, and it was even possible she could die," he wrote through an intermediary. "I have no regrets for standing up for her."