An Ohio man pleaded guilty today to conspiring to threaten the University of Pittsburgh in a YouTube video this spring.
Alexander Waterland, 25, of Loveland, faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both when he is sentenced before U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti on March 15.
Federal prosecutors outlined today the evidence collected against Mr. Waterland and his co-worker, Brandon Hudson, 26, of Hillsboro, Ohio, who has also pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the case. Officials said they were not responsible for the dozens of emailed bomb threats sent to the university that spring.
On April 25, four days after Pitt received its last in the series of emailed bomb threats, Mr. Hudson sent Mr. Waterland a link to the Pitt website. Mr. Waterland spent nearly two hours downloading information from the school's website and then sent Mr. Hudson a text message saying, "Lol. Do I have a surprise for you."
Prosecutors said Mr. Waterland downloaded information that was publicly displayed on the school's website and did not access any confidential information kept by the school. Nevertheless, he and Mr. Hudson produced a YouTube video in which they claimed to be members of the "hacktivist" group Anonymous and threatened to release confidential information unless Chancellor Mark Nordenberg posted a message on the school's website apologizing for not better protecting the data.
The two set a May 6 deadline for the university to comply with their demands. When it still had not done so by May 14, they sent an email to the university police and webmaster setting a new deadline and including messages such as "We are your worst nightmare! The internet is here! You will now Expect us!"
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen said federal agents who investigated the case also found evidence that Mr. Waterland and Mr. Hudson had sent similarly threatening messages to Zeptotraining.com and to Alliance Computers in central Pennsylvania, where Mr. Waterland had previously applied for a job. Prosecutors did not indicate in today's change of plea hearing why the pair targeted those groups.
Mr. Hudson is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 8.
Liz Navratil: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.