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Co-conspirator in Fox Leaks case to be sentenced in July

Marco Gaudino plead guilty to helping Florida journalist Timothy Burke trespass into computer systems, including one used by Fox News.

Marco Gaudino plead guilty to helping Florida journalist Timothy Burke trespass into computer systems, including one used by Fox News.

Marco Gaudino of Washington is accused of conspiring with Florida journalist Timothy Burke to break into online services. (Photo via social media)

A Washington man who pled guilty to helping a Florida journalist trespass into computer systems will be sentenced in July, according to court records reviewed by The Desk.

Marco Gaudino, 24, faces up to five years in prison and an unspecified amount of restitution after pleading guilty to a single felony count of conspiracy last month. He must also surrender three devices seized by federal agents during a raid on his home last year, including a custom-built personal computer and an Android phone.

According to the plea agreement, Gaudino affirmed helping former Deadspin editor Timothy Burke access numerous online systems connected to news organizations and television broadcasters by scouring the Internet for usernames and passwords, then handing over those credentials to Burke.

Prosecutors say a number of news organizations and online service providers were victimized by the scheme, including video transmission service LiveU and Canadian sports broadcaster TSN. The Desk reported last year that LiveU was among the victims in the case.

Gaudino accepted responsibility for passing along credentials that allowed Burke to access an online storage system used by TSN. In exchange for his cooperation in their case against Burke, prosecutors say they will not press forward with other charges against Gaudino, and won’t use any self-incriminating remarks against him, insomuch as they relate to the conspiracy that allegedly included Burke.

Federal agents searched Burke’s home last year as part of their investigation into the leaking of raw video clips from Fox News programs. Court records and sources who spoke with The Desk indicate Gaudino gave Burke a password belonging to CBS News Radio that allowed the journalist to access a LiveU product called Matrix. From there, Burke was able to watch unencrypted video transmissions of Fox News programs, including “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Some clips accessed by Burke later appeared on the websites of Vice News and Media Matters for America, the latter of which published them under the “Fox Leaks” branding.

Burke was arrested earlier this year after a federal grand jury charged him with over a dozen criminal counts that include conspiracy, unauthorized access to a protected computer and unlawful electronic interception. He was arraigned in April and entered a plea of not guilty. His attorneys affirm Burke was the source of the Fox News clips, but say his activities were simply part of his journalistic endeavors. They deny Burke has ever met Gaudino.

Messages provided by prosecutors in court records appear to show otherwise. The records reveal numerous exchanges between Gaudino and Burke over Twitter, in which passwords are swapped. In some conversations, Burke allegedly tells Gaudino that he successfully accessed online systems belonging to sports broadcasters and news organizations using the provided credentials.

Gaudino is expected to affirm what prosecutors believe to be true if Burke’s case heads to trial. Earlier this month, a federal judge overseeing the criminal case set a tentative trial date in mid-October. The date could be delayed as both sides continue to work through various pre-trial necessities, including the disclosure of discovery evidence to Burke and his legal team.

Burke also has a pending matter before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal relates to a motion made by Burke and his lawyers that would force prosecutors to provide an unredacted copy of an affidavit in support of the search warrant executed on his Tampa Bay home last year. The request also asked the judge to force federal investigators to turn over seized computers, notebooks, hard drives and other items that Burke considers part of his work product. A magistrate judge initially denied most of Burke’s request, which prompted the appeal.

Gaudino’s fate is more certain. If he cooperates with investigators as affirmed in the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a less-severe sentence. Federal judges are required to consider a set of sentencing guidelines, which include a range of possible incarceration; under the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend the judge sentence Gaudino to the lower end of the guidelines.

If the judge accepts the recommendation, Gaudino could be sentenced to several years of probation in lieu of prison time.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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