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DRY RIDGE, Ky. -- A Northern Kentucky man is heading to federal prison after he hacked into social media accounts to change conservative views he didn’t agree with.
A judge ruled Monday that Michael Pullen, of Dry Ridge, serve five months in prison for hacking into accounts on Sodahead.com, a political website where users ask questions, post breaking news of the day and share opinions on issues.
Investigators said Pullen, a father of two young children, changed posts on several accounts to change conservative opinions – opinions Pullen said he considered un-American.
"This site caters to a fringe group of these folks -- folks who think that the next civil war is just right around the corner and can't wait to shoot them some liberals,” Pullen said. “People who think liberal is a bad word. "
Pullen said he often deleted posts, but also added some thoughts of his own.
“Every once in a while (I would write) something non-sensical, like ‘I like cake’ or ‘I'm fancy.’ ‘Why don't you call me fancy pants?’ Just garbage. Nonsense," he said.
Pullen’s attorneys argued his actions were a joke, but prosecutors said what Pullen did amounted to cyberbullying.
Sodahead founder Jason Feffer said Pullen's actions caused the company to lose membership and suffer a "tarnished brand."
Feffer issued a statement in May that read in part, "Mr. Pullen may consider it a prank to trespass a computer network in order to violate people's free speech and mock their opinions. The courts consider it a crime, and Americans should consider it a chilling, intolerant act of political suppression."
Media attorney Jack Greiner said the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was passed to criminalize unauthorized computer access to things like defense department secrets, but added this case is more of a private matter.
"He went on to SodaHead.com and changed some information on the site as a prank,” Greiner said. “He really didn't take any valuable information."
Pullen was also ordered to pay more than $20,000 in restitution.
"If you do something that's against the law, even if you question the ethics of the law or the rightness of the law, you're going to do time," Pullen said.
Below is a victim statement Feffer submitted to U.S. Attorney Laura Voorhees in Fort Mitchell on May 29, 2013 concerning the incident.
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