‘Pirate’ Android App Store Operator Avoids Prison

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More than half a decade ago a unique FBI operation took down several pirate Android app 'stores' and arrested their operators. One of the accused men was just a teenager at the time. While he admitted to criminal copyright infringement, the Georgia District Court has agreed to a lower sentence without prison.

Assisted by police in France and the Netherlands, the FBI took down the “pirate” Android stores Appbucket, Applanet and SnappzMarket in the summer of 2012.

During the years that followed several people connected to the Android app sites were arrested and indicted, and slowly but surely these cases are reaching their conclusions.

This week the Northern District Court of Georgia announced the sentencing of one of the youngest defendants. Aaron Buckley was fifteen when he started working on Applanet, and still a teenager when armed agents raided his house.

Years passed and a lot has changed since then, Buckley’s attorney informed the court before sentencing. The former pirate, who pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Copyright Infringement and Criminal Copyright Infringement, is a completely different person today.

Similar to many people who have a run-in with the law, life wasn’t always easy on him. Computers offered a welcome escape but also dragged Buckley into trouble, something he deeply regrets now.

Following the indictment, things started to change. The Applanet operator picked up his life, away from the computer, and also got involved in community work. Among other things, he plays a leading role in a popular support community for LGBT teenagers.

Given the tough circumstances of his personal life, which we won’t elaborate on, his attorney requested a downward departure from the regular sentencing guidelines, to allow for lesser punishment.

After considering all the options, District Court Judge Timothy C. Batten agreed to a lower sentence. Unlike some other pirate app stores operators, who must spend years in prison, Buckley will not be incarcerated.

Instead, the Applanet operator, who is now in his mid-twenties, will be put on probation for three years, including a year of home confinement.

The sentence (pdf)

In addition, he has to perform 20 hours of community service and work towards passing a General Educational Development (GED) exam.

It’s tough to live with the prospect of possibly spending years in jail, especially for more than a decade. Given the circumstances, this sentence must be a huge relief.

TorrentFreak contacted Buckley, who informed us that he is happy with the outcome and ready to work on a bright future.

“I really respect the government and the judge in their sentencing and am extremely grateful that they took into account all concerns of my health and life situation in regards to possible sentences,” he tells us.

“I am just glad to have another chance to use my time and skills to hopefully contribute to society in a more positive way as much as I am capable thanks to the outcome of the case.”

Time to move on.

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