SEATTLE — The woman accused of hacking more than 100 million files from Capital One bank will remain in jail pending her trial for one of the largest ever corporate data breaches, a federal judge ruled Friday.
Magistrate Judge Michelle L. Peterson issued the decision at a hearing in federal court here. Lawyers for Paige A. Thompson had urged that she be sent to a halfway house, arguing that because their client is transgender, she will have a particularly hard time coping in an all-male unit in the federal detention center.
The judge concluded Thompson’s history of threats to herself and others, as well as her alleged proficiency at cracking into computers, meant it was too risky to release her.
Prosecutors say Thompson, 33, could face more than 10 years in prison if convicted. Authorities have signaled additional charges are likely as they explore whether she hacked as many as 30 other computer systems.
“I have severe concerns that if you are released, you will not appear at your next court hearing,” Peterson said, citing the defendant’s “erratic and bizarre behavior, suicide ideation,” and social media posts threatening to kill herself.
Thompson’s lawyers, Mohammad Ali Hamoudi and Christopher Sanders, had told the judge in court papers that Thompson was “in dire need of placement at the halfway house,” so that she could receive treatment for her gender transition and avoid being targeted by male inmates.
“For Ms. Thompson, a transgender woman who stands out among the male population … she has to regularly adapt to manage the inevitable threats to her bodily safety,” Chase Strangio, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in a letter to the court.
Thompson’s lawyers also argued she should not be jailed for having mental health problems.
Thompson, an unemployed software engineer, is accused of illegally accessing more than 100 million credit card applications during a massive hack of Virginia-based Capital One. After her arrest in July, prosecutors said she also stole data from “more than 30 other companies.”
Prosecutors had urged the judge to keep Thompson in custody because she had a history of making threats, including possibly committing “suicide by cop.”
They also say the Bureau of Prisons has made a number of accommodations for Thompson specifically because she is transgender.
“BOP is providing Thompson medications that she takes due to her transgender status,” federal prosecutors Andrew C. Friedman and Steven Masada wrote in a court filing. “BOP has housed Thompson in a male unit, but has taken the unusual step of placing Thompson in a cell with her former housemate, Park Quan, with whom Thompson has expressed a preference for sharing a cell. And BOP is ensuring that staff psychologists regularly meet with Thompson and monitor Thompson’s condition.”
Friedman told the judge Friday that there are other transgender inmates in the detention center, and psychologists there reported Thompson’s condition is “generally good and she feels safe.”
The Bureau of Prisons “is doing everything they can to make sure that the conditions of confinement are as good as they can be,” Friedman said.
When federal agents seized servers from Thompson’s bedroom last month, they found “multiple terabytes” of stolen data from other companies or entities, including “educational institutions,” according to court papers.
“Although not all of those intrusions involved the theft of personal identifying information, it appears likely that a number of the intrusions did,” according to the prosecutors’ filings. Prosecutors said they were still identifying all of the victims, and she is likely to face additional charges beyond the Capital One case.
Prosecutors also suggested that Thompson may have been probing the computer system at the jail where she is being held.
The jail “recently sanctioned Thompson to limit her computer usage, because she apparently was exploring and analyzing the inmate … system and considering ways to exceed the access she is permitted,” prosecutors wrote.
Barrett reported from Washington.