Matthew Keys, the deputy social media editor at Reuters, was federally indicted today for allegedly conspiring with Anonymous to deface various news sites run by the Tribune Company, one of Keys's former employers. If convicted, Keys faces up to 25 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

The indictment alleges the incident occurred shortly after Keys was fired from Sacramento's local news station, KTXL, which is owned by the Tribune Company. According to the release from the Department of Justice, in December 2010, two months after his termination from KTXL, Keys gained access to an Anonymous chat room and proceeded to provide the group with passwords to Tribune's computer system:

Keys identified himself on an Internet chat forum as a former Tribune Company employee and provided members of Anonymous with a login and password to the Tribune Company server. After providing log-in credentials, Keys allegedly encouraged the Anonymous members to disrupt the website. According to the indictment, at least one of the computer hackers used the credentials provided by Keys to log into the Tribune Company server, and ultimately that hacker made changes to the web version of a Los Angeles Times news feature.

The indictment further alleges that Keys had a conversation with the hacker who claimed credit for the defacement of the Los Angeles Times website. The hacker allegedly told Keys that Tribune Company system administrators had thwarted his efforts and locked him out. Keys allegedly attempted to regain access for that hacker, and when he learned that the hacker had made changes to a Los Angeles Times page, Keys responded, "nice."

Heres a screen grab of the "hack" on the Los Angeles Times' web page, via Reddit.

Huffington Post has the full court document, but here's part of the alleged chat room conversations between Keys – screenname AESCracked – and members of Anonymous.

Keys has long been on the record about his interactions with Anonymous during that time period; shortly after Gawker published an article exposing several Anonymous chat logs – an article to which Keys provided some information – Keys addressed the issue in a post on his Tumblr, writing:

I provided Gawker with just one of dozens of logs that were taken during my two-month access to top level hackers within Anonymous. In addition to providing Gawker with one log,I provided the PBS NewsHour with a record back in December.

I identified myself as a journalist during my interaction with the top-level Anonymous hackers and at no time did I offer said individuals any agreement of confidentiality. In fact, I asked several of them for their feelings should they be exposed. They seemed, by and large, indifferent.

But, as Ryan Broderick at Buzzfeed was the first to note, four days after that post notorious Anonymous hacker Sabu claimed Keys was involved with the defacement of the Los Angeles Times' website.

It's not clear how long Keys knew about the indictment, but it appears he knew the announcement was happening today. Gizmodo interviewed someone who reportedly spoke with Keys last night via Gchat. Here's a transcript of that conversation:

Keys: I don't even know if I have much longer here
Me: Why do you say that
Keys: Think my days are numbers
Me: ? Getting fired or going elsewhere?
Keys: Probably being let go
Keys: Dunno. Just a feeling I have.
Keys: Let's talk more about it when I'm not at work
Me: Don't be paranoid
Keys: I'm not being paranoid.

Keys, who had been tweeting as usual up to the announcement, went quiet for over an hour after the DOJ released their statement, before returning to Twitter to retweet two stories, one about 401k plans and the second about his own indictment.

Keys didn't reply to a request for comment. According to Politico, a spokesperson for Reuters said they were investigating the allegations; the spokesperson was also quick to point out the alleged incident occurred over a year before Keys became a Reuters employee.

UPDATE: Shortly after this post was published, Key addressed the issue via Twitter:

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