SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Matthew Keys, 34, of Vacaville, was sentenced today for violating the terms of his supervised release, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller ordered Keys to serve an additional six months in prison to be followed by 18 months of supervision with specific computer monitoring conditions.
Keys was originally indicted in 2013 on charges related to a scheme that resulted in unauthorized changes to an article on the Los Angeles Times website. The government also suspected Keys had sent threatening emails to employees at KTXL FOX40 where he used to work. Keys later confessed to sending the emails and to his role in changing the Los Angeles Times article. After a jury trial to resolve other disputes, such as the amount of the losses the Los Angeles Times suffered, Keys was convicted on all three counts of the superseding indictment. He was sentenced to two years in prison and two years of supervised release.
After Keys completed his prison sentence, he began working as the digital editor at Comstock’s Magazine in Sacramento. Keys wrote stories for Comstock’s and managed its website and social media accounts, including a YouTube channel. The magazine published videos on YouTube, and it used embedded links to YouTube videos in stories published on its own website. Keys resigned abruptly in late January 2020, a little less than a year after he started and about three months before his term of supervised release was set to expire.
In February 2020, an employee at Comstock’s Magazine discovered that a password to the Google account associated with the magazine’s YouTube account no longer functioned. Shortly thereafter, the employee found that links associated with videos on the YouTube account were broken. Comstock’s employees found that the videos had been deleted from the YouTube channel, along with nearly 700 subscriptions to the channel. The magazine then contacted federal prosecutors and the FBI with its suspicions that Keys was responsible.
The U.S. Probation Office, who was supervising Keys, investigated the deletion of the videos with the assistance of the FBI. Among other evidence, the investigation showed that Keys searched Google for the term “how to delete youtube channel” and then executed a command to delete the Comstock’s YouTube channel on Feb. 10, 2020.
On April 20, 2021, after an evidentiary hearing, Judge Mueller found that Keys violated his term of supervised release by committing new crimes: knowingly causing the transmission of command causing damage to a protected computer, and unauthorized destruction of data.
“Businesses and individuals are already struggling against threats to the integrity of their data from hackers and data thieves,” Acting U.S. Attorney Talbert said. “They should not also have to worry about data destruction from former employees seeking retribution. Federal law enforcement will vigorously investigate malicious data-deletion with all available tools.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Hemesath and Matthew D. Segal prosecuted the case.