The “Deputy Social Media Director” for Reuters, Matthew Keys, has been charged with allegedly conspiring with members of Anonymous to hack and alter a Tribune Company website, according to a Department of Justice memo released today.

Keys, 26, who used to be a web producer for a Tribune Company-owned television station KTXL FOX 40, was charged in the Eastern District of California with three counts: conspiracy to transmit information to damage a protected computer, transmitting information to damage a protected computer and attempted transmission of information to damage a computer.

According to the DOJ release:

The three-count indictment alleges that in December 2010 Keys provided members of the hacker group Anonymous with log-in credentials for a computer server belonging to KTXL FOX 40’s corporate parent, the Tribune Company.  According to the indictment, 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.”

If convicted, Keys faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 for each count.

Interestingly, during the attack in shooting at the Clackamas mall in December 2012, an initial report from Mr. Keys via twitter was that the shooter was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, the symbolic mask of Anonymous. Mr. Keys told me he heard this over a police scanner. Many ran with this early report, since Mr. Keys was associated with Reuters. The report later turned out to be false, the shooter was actually wearing a different kind of  mask. The gunman may ultimately have been stopped because of an off-duty security officer who pulled a weapon, upon which the shooter killed himself.