Matthew Keys Sentencing Documents – 2. Matthew Keys Biography

Jay Leiderman
By: Jay Leiderman
June 05 2016

This Post Continues A Series That Will Comprise The Entirety Of The Matthew Keys Sentencing Documents Filed By The Defense – Part 2


Matthew Keys has pursued journalism most of his life.  A cursory glance at his record shows an intense dedication to bringing stories of importance to light — sacrificing his time and resources, and in some cases, his money and health.

In recent years, Matthew’s sacrifices have paid off in the form of impactful journalism that has received national attention.  His stories have encouraged discourse, influenced policy and won the attention and accolades from his peers in the industry, public interest groups and even law enforcement officials.

His desire to pursue stories began in elementary and middle school where he both created and served as editors to two school news bulletins.  In high school, he was one of eight contributors toward his school’s first long-form newspaper and later served as a news editor for it.  At the age of 16, he was the youngest journalist to serve as a correspondent to the homecoming of former prisoners of war from the 507th Maintenance Company at Fort Bliss, Texas during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  During the homecoming, he was interviewed by reporters and photographers from other news organizations, including Amber Rupinta of WCAU-TV (now at WTVD) and freelance journalists working for Harpo Studios, the television production company run by Oprah Winfrey.  He was also one of two students to work on the television broadcast team, and as a senior was drafted to help instruct a handful of journalism classes at his school.

In college, he started a blog,, which initially began as a space to write on personal topics but later grew to become an influential digital publication covering media and local news in the Sacramento area.  His readers included newspaper reporters, television anchors and broadcast producers throughout the area.  His writings led Brandon Mercer, the former news director at KTXL FOX40, to hire him as the station’s first web producer.  Mr. Keys left college in 2008 to focus on his job at FOX40 full time.  He subsequently closed his blog, which prompted a newspaper article in the widely-read Sacramento Bee.[1]

  1. At FOX40 News

Matthew’s first job was to transform FOX40’s website — which until that point had been used as a promotional platform for the station — into a local news publication.  He was instructed to build a website that incorporated both written stories and videos from various sources, including the station’s own news broadcasts, the Associated Press, Reuters News, CNN, the FOX News Channel and other Tribune media properties.  He was asked to find new and compelling ways to promote the station’s news content so that it would reach as many local viewers as possible and compete against three other broadcast news properties in the Sacramento television market.  He was asked to grow the FOX40 website to one million page views[2] within a one-year period.

Matthew was hired by FOX40 in June 2008.  The station used Adobe software called Omniture to measure the amount of traffic their website received, with measurements available in hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly increments.  When Matthew started, FOX40’s website received just under 300,000 monthly page views.  By November 2008, this figure grew to over 400,000 page views; in April 2009, FOX40’s website received more than one million page views, and registered another six million the following month.  The goal that Matthew was tasked to achieve — one million monthly page views within one year — was completed in ten months, and was sustained throughout the remainder of his career with the station.[3]

Mr. Keys achieved the goals set by his employer by experimenting with new forms of storytelling, emerging technologies and by adopting an aggressive, play-to-win attitude.  Two months into his employment, he registered Twitter and Facebook accounts for FOX40 using his personal e-mail accounts as an experiment in reaching new audiences through the Internet.  Despite initial concerns by his direct supervisor over the approach, Mr. Keys built a healthy following on both social media platforms — because of his efforts, FOX40 was the first station in Northern California to have a presence on Twitter, and his work on Facebook was emulated by the station’s competitors in the following months.

He also regularly trained other employees — including reporters and photographers — on the best social media practices to maximize exposure and attract new followers and viewers.  Today, many of the reporters he trained have healthy followings on their personal and professional social media accounts.

While at FOX40 News, Matthew covered some of the most-memorable stories of his career. In March 2009, he led a station-wide initiative to create a news website separate from that published stories and information on a missing 8-year-old girl named Sandra Cantu.  Matthew successfully lobbied the station to run the website as an advertisement-free public service while at the same time committing both human and financial capital to the effort.  Members of the community used the website to learn about the latest developments, get information on contacting law enforcement and organize search rallies.  A company called ButtonWorks created shirt buttons featuring the address of the website, and Home Depot donated thousands of fluorescent-colored missing posters again emblazoned with the address of the website.  The website was turned into a digital memorial when it was tragically discovered that Cantu had been murdered by her former Sunday school teacher.  At the suspect’s murder trial, Cantu’s family testified that they learned about developments in the search and subsequent arrest by watching FOX40.

In September 2009, a wildfire broke out near Auburn, California.  The so-called “49 Fire”[4] erupted on a Saturday when Matthew and other newsroom employees were typically not at the station.  After learning about evacuations in the community, he not only went to the station on his day off, but provided up-to-the-minute coverage of the fire well into the next morning.  He remained at the station until the following afternoon, providing more than 18 hours of coverage.  He and others at the station received e-mails from evacuees and concerned loved ones throughout the country praising FOX40’s continuous updates on-air, online and on social media.

As part of his job duties, Matthew regularly communicated with law enforcement officials in order to provide accurate and timely information to FOX40’s news audience.  He also provided law enforcement information that led to criminal arrests. In December 2009, while researching exercise equipment on Craigslist, he came across a listing where someone was trying to illegally sell prescription pain medication.  Matthew contacted the seller and was able to get an e-mail address and a phone number. He researched the phone number and came across a social media profile where the seller claimed to have ties with the Norteno[5] gang.  He collected his research and contacted general assignment reporter Rowena Shaddox, enlisting her help to contact local law enforcement.

Shaddox and Matthew contacted Norm Leong, then a sergeant and police spokesperson with the Sacramento Police Department.  With FOX40 present, Sacramento police organized a sting to apprehend the individual responsible for the attempted illegal transaction.  Police also learned that the suspect, who was a juvenile, was wanted for a string of local burglaries and was also attempting to sell stolen merchandise.  The police department credited the arrest to the initial research performed by Matthew, Shaddox and FOX40.

Matthew’s work diligently at FOX40.  As the station’s sole employee for online and digital initiatives, he often worked at night and on weekends from his home. The station encouraged this work by providing him with a mobile Internet card, and he was expected to check his e-mail and answer the phones when he was off-the-clock.

As a consequence of his long hours and the accompanied stress, he suffered from severe, cystic acne and was prescribed the potent drug Accutane on two occasions. He was also diagnosed in August 2010 with mild insomnia and prescribed the sedative Trazodone.

That same month, he was told during a meeting with his supervisor that the station did not feel he was ready to take on managerial role, and that they would be looking to hire someone to oversee the station’s website and other digital initiatives.  Discouraged by the lack of opportunity at the station in spite of his achievements, he left the station following a newsroom dispute in October 2010.

After FOX40

From late October 2010 to April 2011, Matthew worked as a self-published freelance journalist, covering stories he felt would be both interesting, important and impactful.  He used his knowledge and experimentation with emerging social medium platforms to showcase his newsgathering and storytelling abilities.

In December 2010, in pursuit of a story on Anonymous, he was invited into the Internet chat room Internet Feds.  His reporting helped the public better learn and understand who Anonymous was and what their intentions were at the time.  Information he learned from his observation of the group was used by reporters for the PBS NewsHour, Gawker, and for a book on Anonymous authored by Forbes reporter Parmy Olson.  His research would also be the focal point of a story published by Reuters in March 2012.

In January 2011, he covered the shooting of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.  He utilized the social platforms Twitter and Tumblr to deliver short updates on the shooting and subsequent investigation in real-time for more than three weeks.  He used the same technique to cover social unrests in the Middle East and a powerful earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan.  He was profiled by the website AdWeek[6] for his work on those stories, and was nominated for an Online News Association award for his storytelling on the Japan earthquake.

His use of social media to cover stories impressed colleagues across the country, and it led to two additional job opportunities: In May 2011, he was hired as a weekend news producer for KGO-TV in San Francisco, and seven months later he accepted a different job working as a journalist for the Reuters News Service in New York City.  While at Reuters, he covered a number of significant stories of national and international interest, including the 2012 London Olympics, the Colorado movie theater shooting, the presidential election, the Sandy Hook massacre and the appointment of Pope Benedict XVI.  And despite living within the impact zone, he provided rolling coverage of Hurricane Sandy in November 2012 from his home until his electricity went out.

During his time at Reuters he was asked to provide commentary and insight on a number of emerging digital media trends and technologies.  The Huffington Post declared him a must-follow journalist for news on Facebook,[7] Time Magazine named him one of the 140 best Twitter feeds to follow in 2012,[8] and the website declared him one of the 100 people every journalism student should follow.[9]

Reuters terminated Matthew as an employee in early 2013 after his indictment. Despite significant resource and financial hardships since then, he remained committed to journalism and continued covering important news stories.  And, even while under indictment, some of his stories had a significant impact on public discourse and policy.

In June 2013, the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers broke numerous stories disclosing clandestine — and in some cases, illegal — wiretapping and surveillance operations by the National Security Agency (NSA).  In November 2013, under a presidential order, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court released a trove of documents related to their approval of some NSA operations.  Matthew reviewed those documents and determined that between the years 2005 and 2011, every request by the NSA to conduct surveillance had been approved by the court[10].  This research was later used for journalist Glenn Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide.  Greenwald credited Keys for his research.[11]

In mid-2013, a hacker group known as the Syrian Electronic Army made international headlines after compromising numerous social media accounts used by news websites.  While news publications widely reported what the Syrian Electronic Army had done, few looked deeper into who the group was or what their intentions were.  In May 2013, Matthew became the first journalist to conduct an interview with a representative of the Syrian Electronic Army.[12]  In December 2013, he produced the first live conversation[13] with the same representative.  His research helped de-bunk widely-reported assertions that the hacker group was tied to the Syrian government and gave the public greater insight into the collective and their ambitions.

In November 2013, Matthew obtained radio dispatches related to a fatal incident involving a BART commuter train and two maintenance employees weeks earlier.  His story revealed that there were numerous problems involving both the train “lookout” method and the radio equipment used by the workers that day.  The audio tapes Matthew obtained were widely cited by local media, including the San Francisco Chronicle[14].  They were also solicited from him for a pending lawsuit filed by one of the family members of a BART employee killed that day. Matthew provided the tapes to the family upon their request, and absorbed the expenses in doing so.

In March 2014, he began a 14-month investigation into clandestine cellphone surveillance devices used by law enforcement known as a “StingRay.”  During his investigation, he successfully landed an on-the-record interview with a police spokesperson in which the officer admitted the devices were used in numerous criminal investigations.  The admission countered assertions at the time by federal agents that Stingrays were limited in use to homeland security investigations.  His report on the acknowledgement was used in a letter filed by the American Civil Liberties Union[15] on the topic several months later.

Matthew’s investigation concluded when the Federal Communications Commission released a heavily-redacted manual related to the StingRay device.[16]  Although the manual contained little additional insight into how law enforcement obtained or used them, it was the first public acknowledgement by the FCC of the device’s existence.  Matthew filed more than two dozen stories on the topic during his investigation, and his research and reporting was cited by Vice News[17], Slate[18], the International Business-Times[19] and others.

In August 2014, Matthew investigated comments made by then-Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson as to why he released a surveillance tape depicting slain 18-year-old Michael Brown, Jr. minutes before he was shot by a Ferguson police officer.  Jackson told reporters at a press briefing that the tape was released pursuant to numerous open records requests filed by members of the media.  After researching, Matthew discovered that the Ferguson police had received no specific requests for the tape from any reporter.  In September, Matthew broke the story that Jackson had lied about receiving requests for the tape, calling into question the Ferguson Police Department’s motive for releasing it.  His report received national attention as was covered by the Huffington Post[20], MSNBC[21] and others.  Matthew was commended by Brown’s family attorney Benjamin Crump for his investigation, and his story was used as the foundation of a letter urging Jackson to resign.[22]

Finally, in June 2015, a startup news organization called Grasswire hired Matthew to be a managing editor.  In November 2015, he began an investigation into a surveillance tape that depicted the beating of a suspect by Alameda County, California sheriff’s deputies at the end of a pursuit.  The police severely beat that suspect, later identified as Stanislav Petrov.

While working on the investigation, Grasswire ran into financial difficulties.  Two days before Christmas, the website’s editor-in-chief announced that all paid staffers were to be laid off effective immediately.  Despite losing his job, and at considerable financial expense, Matthew published the findings of his two-month investigation into the Petrov beating.[23]  His story contained numerous previously-undisclosed facts, including the identities of the two deputies who appeared on the surveillance tape.  His story was cited by the San Francisco Chronicle[24] and other newspapers[25], and his investigation was praised by Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods.[26]

Despite his indictment, Matthew continued to report on matters of crucial public interest, bringing to light important facts on critical matters that, without his reporting, may never have seen the light of day.  Taken as a whole, his commitment to journalism also demonstrates a commitment to public service.  At a time when other journalists concern themselves with which burrito restaurant a presidential candidate patrons[27] or the numerous antics of a real estate mogul-turned-politician,[28] it someone who has dedicated serious personal and professional effort, sometimes at his own considerable expense, to research and publish impactful stories on topics that matter to the public, should not be incarcerated.  If he were to be sentenced to any prison term, people in positions of authority who will go unchecked and stories of public importance that will go untold.

[1] Rachel Leibrock. “RadioMatthew Calls It a Day.” The Sacramento Bee (Oct. 14, 2013), available at

[2] A “page view” is a metric used to measure the amount of traffic, or viewership, a website receives. One page view is the equivalent of a person viewing a page on a website once. Page views are sometimes colloquially referred to in the online industry as “clicks.”

[3] See Page Views Report 2008, available at

[4] According to statistics released by Cal Fire, the 49 Fire burned over 340 acres, destroyed 63 homes, and significantly damaged six businesses. Hundreds of people were evacuated from affected communities. The cause of the fire remains unknown. See Incident Information, Forty Nine (49) Fire, Cal Fire Website, available at

[5] THE omnibus Northern California prison gang; Nortenos control all street gang activity in Northern California.

[6] , Ethan Klapper “Meet Producer Matthew, Aggregation Journalist.” AdWeek (Mar. 21, 2011), available at

[7] “50 People in Media You Should Subscribe to on Facebook” The Huffington Post (Apr. 30, 2012), available at

[8] Amy Lombard “The 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2012” Time (Mar. 15, 2012), available at

[9] Sarah Marshall “100 Twitter Accounts Every Journalism Student Should Follow” (Sept. 24, 2012), available at

[10] Matthew Keys, Twitter Feed (7:23am Nov. 19, 2013), available at

[11] Glenn Greenwald “No Place to Hide: Booknotes”, available at

[12] Matthew Keys “A Conversation with the Syrian Electronic Army” The Desk (May 14, 2013), available at

[13] Id at

[14] Demian Bulwa “BART Workers on Tracks Don’t Get Train Warnings” SFGATE (Oct. 21, 2013), available at

[15] Letter form Laura W. Murphy, Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office, to The Honorable Tom Wheeler, Chairman, FCC (Sept. 17, 2014), available at

[16] “Exclusive: Stingray Maker Asked FCC to Block Release of Spy Gear Manual” the blot magazine (Mar. 26, 2015), available at

[17] Lucy Steigerwald “Everything We Know About the Singray, the Cops’ Favorite Cell Phone Tracking Tool” Vice (Apr. 13, 2015), available at

[18] Lily Hay Newman “FCC Finally Releases (Heavily Redacted) Manual for Controversial Surveillance Device” Slate (Mar. 27, 2015), available at

[19] Jeff Stone “Sweeping ‘Stingray’ Surveillance Technology Has No Restrictions, Despite Serious Privacy Concerns:  Police” International Business Times (Jul. 7, 2014), available at

[20] Simon McCormack “Ferguson Police Chief Lied About Why He Released Alleged Michael Brown Robbery Tap:  Report” The Huffington Post (Sept. 6, 2014),available at

[21] All In With Chris Hayes, NBC New Show, Transcript (Sept. 5, 2014), available at

[22] Jackson resigned as Ferguson’s police chief eight months later.

[23] Matthew Keys, “Grasswire Investigates: Alameda County Deputies Involved in November Beating Named” Grasswire (Dec. 24, 2015), available at

[24] Vivian Ho, Twitter Feed (6:59pm Dec. 24, 2015), available at

[25] Katrina Cameron, “Alameda County Deputies Involved in San Francisco Beating Identified” Times#Standard News (Dec. 24, 2015), available at

[26] Brendan Woods, Twitter Feed (3:20am Dec. 25, 2015) available at

[27] Maggie Haberman, “Hillary Clinton, Just an Unrecognized Burrito Bowl Fan at Chipolte” New York Times (Apr. 13, 2015), available at

[28] Maggie Haberman “Donald Trump did Stay at a Holiday Inn Express on Friday Night” New York Times (Jan. 24, 2016), available at(


matthew keys sentencing
Followers of the Matthew Keys trial made many memes and photoshopped images of the Keys trial. This opne features Keys and criminal defense lawyers Jay Leiderman and Tor Ekeland as “Resorvior Dogs”


20 thoughts on “Matthew Keys Sentencing Documents – 2. Matthew Keys Biography

  1. Maybe they won’t look out. Your mother come on back. The leftist is covering the Constitution; what I try to say. Of all the end, the truth a person (Fuck me up all alone on that side). I see we are in the law, a category. See, we’ll once seek (a me. Your ESP is attracting a (more than an element), “of tomb breath”.
    So it stinks if I’m thinking “Schaum.” I’m all chiseled, then I’m some “Larry the Cable Guy”? On a bet?
    With his younger brat, I had it there. I’d be dishing these Hollywood–problem, Zeke. Matthew’s, I’mm a talkin’ to, trans–Perez Hilton. We been talkin’ how love’d transit the internet; I heard that.
    In Zoolander, the phone is a TINY tenterama, and the drugs, this time they’re fashions.

  2. Good bio, but …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  3. Just what I was looking for – documents that I didn’t have to pay for on PACER – thanks foor putting up.

  4. 640638 934496An intriguing discussion is worth comment. Keys is a jerk adn deserved what he got. Cheers 848967

  5. “Ol’ Red,” Blake Shelton (2002)
    Being sentenced to 99 years kind of troubles your mind, especially when it’s the upshot of having found your wife in flagrante Dixie with another man. But two years in, our boy becomes a trustee and is put in charge of caring for Ol’ Red, the convict-sniffing hound from which there is no escape. Having had firsthand experience with the power of animal attraction, the trustee smuggles in a female dog — and you know the rest. As the last line of the song says, “Love got me in here, and love got me out.” Prison’s a bitch, ain’t it?

  6. “When will the Home Office realize that when judges retire, not only are they sent home for the rest of their lives, but the only people they have left to judge are their innocent wives.’

    ‘So what are you recommending?’asked Alex as they walked into the drawing room.

    ‘That judges should be shot on their seventieth birthday, and their wives granted a royal pardon and given their pensions by a grateful nation.’

    ‘I may have come up with a more acceptable solution,’ suggested Alex.

    ‘Like what? Making it legal to assist judges’ wives to commit suicide?’

    ‘Something a little less drastic,’ said Alex.”
    ― Jeffrey Archer, A Prisoner of Birth

  7. Attorney Work Product Privilege

    A rule that an opposing party generally may not discover or compel disclosure of written or oral materials prepared by or for an attorney in the course of legal representation, especially in preparation for litigation. In limited circumstances, however, an opposing party may discover or compel disclosure of work product upon a showing of “substantial need” and “undue hardship.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 26(b)(3).

    Illustrative caselaw

    See, e.g. United States v. Nobles, 422 U.S. 225 (1975).

  8. MATTHEW KEYS, A former social media editor, was sentenced today to two years in prison for aiding members of Anonymous so they could hack the Tribune Company.

    Keys was convicted last October and faced a possible maximum sentence of 25 years. His conviction drew rounds of condemnation on the web from people who believed that the crime associated with him—the minor defacement of an LA Times headline online—should have been charged as a misdemeanor not a felony.

  9. Keys worked for the Reuters news agency when he was indicted in 2013 for allegedly providing a username and password to members of Anonymous three years earlier to gain access to a server belonging to his former employer, the Tribune Company. In 2010, Keys had parted ways with Fox-40, a TV station owned by the Tribune Company, and allegedly encouraged the hackers to use his credentials to “go fuck some shit up.” Someone subsequently used them to hack into the web site of the Los Angeles Times, also owned by the Tribune Company, and change the headline of a story. During a recorded FBI interview in October 2012, Keys admitted his involvement in the hack. But he has since insisted that he is innocent. In a brief note published online today he wrote, “I am innocent, and I did not ask for this fight. Nonetheless, I hope that our combined efforts help bring about positive change to rules and regulations that govern our online conduct.”

  10. Although the government expended a lot of effort to prosecute Keys, authorities never charged the person who conducted the hack, even though they had a solid lead on a suspect.

  11. Feds Never Charged the Real Hacker in the Matthew Keys Case
    Matthew Keys’ Hacking Conviction May Not Survive an Appeal
    Judge Refuses to Dismiss Confession, Evidence in Reuters Employee Hacking Case

  12. The Most Controversial Hacking Cases of the Past Decade
    UK authorities identified the alleged hacker, who went by the name “Sharpie,” as a 35-year-old living in Scotland and shared this information with the FBI back in 2013, according to FBI documents that were published on the Cryptome web site last July. Although the FBI indicated in one of the documents that UK authorities planned to pursue their own charges against the man, this never happened either. When asked about the lack of follow-up, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s office in Los Angeles told WIRED, “It’s kinda complicated.”

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