Well, he had a job. He had a car. He had a home. He even had a dog. And now he has a long Con Air flight to St. Louis from San Diego ahead of him, because he also had a knife, expired plates, months left on parole, and an ex who’d attempted to get a restraining order.
Jon Cowden, formerly of OpIsrael and OpPalestine among other Anonymous operations, had previously served 13 months and 2 days of a 15 month sentence, and was then released on parole. The formerly affluent Cowden, an experienced programmer who’d earned the finer things in life through his regular employment, fell on hard times earlier this year, ending up in a fleabag motel, down to his last folding money in March. Offered a good job in Los Angeles, he was unable to take it because his parole restrictions kept him in San Diego every night. Eventually unable to pay car insurance, he allowed it to expire, but kept the car. When he was kicked out of the motel for non-payment, he was planning to live in the car.
Remember the car. The car is important.
We at the Cryptosphere had dubbed him “The Forgotten Anon” but he was not so forgotten as he might have been at that moment.
We heard from Australian and UK activists that he was at a very low ebb, and connected him with some non-Anonymous people we knew in San Diego [his parole restrictions ban associating with known Anonymous activists] who quickly asked for his resume, his phone number, and his location, and led him to community resources and other useful people. With their help within days he was out of the flophouse and into an adorable house with a new roommate who remodeled her office into a private room for him. Now hooked up with medical help for his PTSD, Cowden was soon on new meds that appeared to stabilize his often impulsive moods, while still letting Jon be Jon. He got his dog back from an ex, an operation which took some finesse, since she’d tried to take out a restraining order on him and negotiations were difficult, but still, it got done. The dog got on well with the roommate and her cat, the roommate soon became a girlfriend, and all appeared well in San Diego. So far, so great.
He was even going to sell the car.
In case you can’t read that, and you probably can’t, on April 21 Cowden tweeted “Going to carmax my life-long goal away today.. She has been an amazing car and even better house/closet/storeroom. #HacktivismCostsButSavesLives”.
Carmax replied, “@joncowden Can’t wait to see you today, along with your amazing (and, might we add, multi-tasking) car!”
Cowden, never one to beat about the bush, responded, “Offer at-home appraisals for special situations? Such as a special situation I am in.. Recently released with car reg that lapsed.”
The car, alas, didn’t sell, and so Cowden was driving it on the morning of July 18 when he was pulled over for the aforesaid lapsed registration. If you’ve ever watched a cop show you know how this works when you’re on parole: you get taken in. When they took him in they discovered the knife, which Cowden maintains was merely a pocket knife so small his parole officer had already cleared it. When they ran his info, they discovered the application for the restraining order his ex had tried to take out on him. Now he’s in custody in a local federal detention center, awaiting transfer to St. Louis, where he will have another hearing where the court will decide how long to keep him. It could be anything up to the end of his prior parole term. We don’t know, and won’t know until the hearing in St. Louis concludes.
His girlfriend told us, “They brought him in/arrested him based on there being a bench warrant out for his arrest, that his parole officer didn’t tell him about. The bench warrant was for the alleged violations of his terms of the supervised release [possession of the knife, iPad & phone]. I think he can only be held up to 11 months for the violations, since he didn’t commit any crimes. But allowing him to return to San Diego after the hearing and serving any required time [here] is still not guaranteed.”
And that brings us to where we are today.
With his girlfriend, having ransomed the car out of the impound, and hoping to cover the credit card bill somehow.
His parents are, according to her, willing to pay the insurance, but the impound fees are just more than they can handle in addition, so the girlfriend, who has requested anonymity, has put the fee on her credit card and set up a Fundrazr to cover the cost. And also to pay the vet bills for his PTSD service companion dog, Chazz, who has been gnawing at himself since Jon went away.
As for the transfer from San Diego to St. Louis, “It could be as far away as Halloween – no way of knowing,” she told us. “The U.S. Marshals keep that top secret.” Once the transfer is initiated, “He probably won’t be in St. Louis for at least a couple of days – they’ll keep him at a transit center in Oklahoma or Atlanta for at least a day.”
“Since Jon is in a place where he feels relatively safe and supported, he’d rather end up serving longer time overall and stay in San Diego, than have to go through extradition to St. Louis (even if it means an earlier release).” He is also, as a PTSD survivor, not overfond of the infamous Con Air, which is apparently even worse in real life than the dreadful Nick Cage movie was in theatres. Now, however, he has no choice. Any day could bring the call to put him on the plane.
When we contacted his lawyer with questions, the only one he answered was related to letters of support. His only statement to us was that Cowden’s new lawyer in St. Louis could use all the letters of support he could get.
The Fundrazr explains the situation:
Jon Cowden is currently incarcerated in a federal prison due to alleged violations of his supervised release terms for a hacking-related crime. The alleged violations include possession of a pocket knife, an iPad, and the receipt of a smartphone (the smartphone was in a sealed, shipping envelope outside the residence where Jon was staying; the phone was new, unactivated and inside a sealed box when the package was opened).
There is an urgent need for funding assistance to get Jon’s car out of the impound lot, as fees are accruing daily [UPDATE: the car is out of impound, so fees are not accruing any more, but the bill was in the $1500 range, and that was put on a personal credit card]. Jon needs this car upon his release in order to attend court-ordered counseling and other appointments, medical appointments and eventually commuting to work. Since it is unknown how long it will be until he’s released, we need to get the car out of the impound lot to prevent these fees from continuing to increase. The current cost as of August 6, 2015 is $1,058 (with additional fees for after-hours pickup, plus costs related to transportation to the lot to physically get the car).
Any funds raised above the total impound cost will be used towards food and medical expenses for Jon’s service dog, Chazz, whose vet bills have already exceded $500 due to anxiety-related skin issues that have developed since Jon’s arrest.
Should we be fortunate enough to raise funds above those required for the car and Chazz’s help, those funds will be applied to Jon’s account for his phone calls to his girlfriend and his parents, so that they can continue to stay informed on the status of his case, as well as provide him with emotional support and love.
With 11 days left on the clock, the fundraiser has so far garnered only $60 from two contributors. Will Jon Cowden remain the Forgotten Anon? Or will the collective bail out his car at least, with the man himself back in the bowels of the System? Time, and the US Marshals Service, will tell.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect additional information about the circumstances of his arrest and potential custodial term.