The Desk appreciates the support of readers who purchase products or services through links on our website. Learn more...

Judge orders mental health test for journalist charged in Fox News leaks

Timothy Burke is also not permitted to travel beyond a certain boundary in Florida, and must submit to substance abuse testing.

Timothy Burke is also not permitted to travel beyond a certain boundary in Florida, and must submit to substance abuse testing.

Former Deadspin editor Timothy Burke (inset picture) from an undated social media image.
Former Deadspin editor Timothy Burke (inset picture) from an undated social media image. (Graphic by The Desk)

A Florida journalist charged with hacking into a protected computer in order to access and later leak numerous unarmed clips from Fox News programs has been ordered by a federal judge to submit to a mental health evaluation, The Desk has learned.

The order was issued last Thursday following the arrest of Timothy Burke on numerous computer hacking, electronic intercept and conspiracy charges, with the judge imposing the mental health test as a special condition of his pre-trial release.

In addition to the evaluation, Burke must submit to period substance abuse testing and was forced to surrender his passport and other travel documents, according to a court records reviewed by The Desk. He is also not permitted to travel beyond the Middle District of Florida and is forbidden from having any contact with the alleged victims or co-conspirators associated with the case.

The order did not include a restriction on computer or Internet use, nor did it require Burke’s pre-trial services officer provided by the U.S. Probation Department to install computer monitoring software on any of his Internet-connected devices. Burke was also not required to post bond after a prosecutor chose not to request his detention before trial.

Burke has not entered a plea in the case. An attorney representing the journalist requested his arraignment to be delayed to a later date.

A map of the federal Middle District of Florida, which includes the cities of Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville. (Graphic by The Desk)
A map of the federal Middle District of Florida, which includes the cities of Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville. (Graphic by The Desk)

Burke was arrested about a week after a federal grand jury in Florida issued a 14-count indictment on allegations that he improperly used a username and password to access multiple computer systems used by television broadcasters.

One system associated with a professional sports league allowed Burke to download large video files over several weeks, the indictment said. The sports league was not identified by name in the indictment, but the Desk has confirmed it is the National Basketball Association (NBA), which was referenced in the indictment as being headquartered in New York and having a subsidiary business based in Brazil.

Burke was able to access the system after someone based in Washington state passed a username and password to him, according to the indictment. The co-conspirator has not been identified, and it is unclear if federal law enforcement intend to bring charges against that person.

Shortly after the password was swapped, the co-conspirator allegedly provided Burke with another set of credentials that allowed him to access a cloud-based video provider where raw videos associated with a cable news channel were based. Previous reporting from The Desk confirmed the video provider to be LiveU, with the password discovered on the website of a CBS Radio affiliate in Tennessee.

Once he accessed the LiveU service, Burke allegedly watched and recorded raw video footage associated with Fox News channel programs, including clips from commentator Tucker Carlson’s former program. (Carlson left the Fox News Channel last April.)

Burke later sold the clips to other news outlets in exchange for a total of $1,500, according to a source familiar with the matter. Prosecutors intend to seek forfeiture of that cash from Burke if he is convicted, the source said.

Attorneys representing Burke do not deny that the journalist used a username and password to access Fox News clips, but said the credentials were posted on the open Internet and that the radio station actively encouraged their listeners to use them.

That claim was not supported by an archive version of the radio station’s website viewed by The Desk, which showed a CBS News username and password for the LiveU website, but didn’t include the invitation as Burke’s attorney described.

In numerous news interviews, Burke and his lead defense attorney, Mark D. Rasch, say the Fox News clips were also available on the open Internet and were transmitted using unencrypted means. They have not responded to the government’s allegation that the video links were locked behind a password belonging to CBS News, but did characterize the criminal case against Burke as a matter concerning press freedom.

Burke’s legal defense team have not responded to multiple e-mails from The Desk for comment. Rasch did not respond to a message asking about Burke’s release conditions involving the mental health evaluation and substance abuse testing.

Immediately after the court hearing last week, Burke encouraged his thousands of social media followers to read a copy of the grand jury indictment on his legal defense website. The website also includes copies of a pre-indictment motion filed months ago that sought the return of numerous computers and phones seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as part of their investigation last year. The motion was denied, and an appeal on the matter is still pending in court.

Get stories like these in your inbox, plus free breaking news alerts on business and policy matters involving media and tech.

Get stories like these in your inbox, plus free breaking news alerts on business and policy matters involving media and tech.

Photo of author

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 10 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.
Home » News » Industries » Streaming » Judge orders mental health test for journalist charged in Fox News leaks