Marshals Nab Petersen The former Sunset Strip ladies man and fugitive hacker was captured Friday, December 11, by Federal Marshals. By Kevin Poulsen and Iolande Bloxsom
Former hacker Justin Petersen had stated that he was overseas and even working for the CIA. However, he was arrested Friday evening in Studio City, California-- and no CIA agents were in sight. Recently, US Marshals got a tip that the one-legged hacker was holed up in an apartment just north of Hollywood-- turned in to them by one of his many enemies on the Sunset Strip. The Marshals had been making the rounds of Hollywood clubs for the past seven weeks, showing his picture throughout the bars and strip joints sprinkled along Sunset Boulevard. Over the course of his career, Petersen's left a more than a few ruffled feathers, and after the circuit made by the Marshals, one enemy knew exactly who to call with the tip. Petersen was living in a modest apartment building in Studio City, only a couple of miles from the Strip. He also had three roommates, who allegedly didn't know he was a fugitive. The Marshals entered the apartment using a key provided by the building's manager. When they entered, Petersen was alone, relaxing on his bed and using his laptop computer. After allowing him to put on his prosthetic leg, the Marshals arrested him, and took him to the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles. Ironically, this is the same place where hacker Kevin Mitnick is currently being held. Petersen rose to fame after helping the FBI arrest Mitnick on a probation violation in the early 1990s. What Next? Petersen faces 5 to 11 months in jail for walking away from supervision. And after that, it's possible he'll be back where he started: on probation. This is contrary to Petersen's claims on his website that after any time served he'll be a completely free man. However, under current sentencing law, he can be reinstated on supervised release-- which, in his case, could mean up to two years of probation. Flashback This is the second fugitive run for Petersen; his last stint underground lasted 10 months. This time, however, Petersen had become somewhat of a public figure. Openly boasting of his run from justice, he used his website to promote his cause, and called his fugitive status a "nonstory." Marshals at the scene of the arrest, however, disagreed. They said Petersen's attitude only made them more committed to bringing him in. In fact, one of the Marshals sent Petersen an email a few days before the bust, saying simply "We're coming, and hell's coming with us." And, in an interview after the arrest, the marshals stated that Petersen had in fact read that message. He just didn't realize who had sent it.
Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job By Kevin Poulsen August 24, 1998 Sporting blue denim, shoulder-length brown hair with blond highlights, Justin Petersen appeared before federal judge Stephen Wilson today and admitted to four violations of his probation, before being released to a halfway house. Petersen was hauled in last month for failing to obtain employment since his release from prison in April of last year, and for the related violations of failing to make restitution payments and failure to pay back taxes. He also admitted to missing two appointments with his probation officer, Cathy Nash. Nash recommended that Petersen be given another chance, but under tighter controls, beginning with a stay in a community correctional center for a period of up to four months. "He's on supervised release and he has to toe the line." -- Judge Wilson Assistant US Attorney David Schindler, who helped Petersen obtain his last job as in the early 1990s as a paid FBI informant, reluctantly concurred. "Mr. Petersen is getting an enormous break here," Schindler noted for the record. Jay Lichtman, Petersen's attorney, argued that the convicted bank thief and credit card swindler-- whose taste for the Sunset Strip nightlife is legendary-- should not have to endure the indignities of a halfway house with a 9:00 PM curfew. "Petersen is attempting to pursue self-employment, and that involves contacting people by computer and making phone calls-- sometimes late at night... He doesn't have a car, so he'll be traveling by bus" to and from the halfway house. Judge Wilson wasn't sympathetic, and offered that had the decision been entirely his own, he probably wouldn't be releasing Petersen at all. "This defendant is, in some ways, very anti-societal. There's a difference between being anti-societal and non-conformist... He can wear his hair however he wants, live whatever lifestyle he wants, but here he's on supervised release and he has to toe the line."