Jay Leiderman, a California defense attorney known for his whistleblower advocacy and defense of political dissidents and hackers, was confirmed dead in Ventura County on Thursday. He was 50 years old. From a report: Dubbed the “Hacktivist’s Advocate” by The Atlantic in 2012, Leiderman gained national attention for his pro-bono work for clients accused of crashing corporate and government websites, including members of the group Anonymous. They were rarely good cases.
Leiderman’s hacking clients had a nagging habit of openly admitting to the things they were accused of doing. One spent a decade fleeing authorities in several countries, giving interviews, all the while on the lam. (The client was just captured in June.) Still, their causes struck a chord with the Queens-born attorney, who’d long held to a rebellious legal philosophy. After a city in California passed a law criminalizing homelessness, the same client knocked one of its websites offline for half an hour. Where the FBI saw a felony computer crime worth up to 15 years in prison, Leiderman saw a peaceful protest against an unjust law — a protest, he noted, that caused no perceptible harm.