Extradited Russian explores plea deal for massive LinkedIn breach

The United States Court House in San Francisco where Yevgeniy Nikulin is being tried. (Photo: Patrick Howell O'Neill)

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The legal team for Yevgeniy Nikulin, the Russian hacker accused of stealing data from LinkedIn and other American tech firms, will explore a plea deal with the U.S. government, according to Nikulin’s lawyer, Arkady Bukh.

“The likelihood of a trial is not very high,” Bukh said. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, where Nikulin’s trial would occur, “has over a 99 percent conviction rate. We are not throwing clients under the bus,” Bukh said.

Nikulin was extradited to the United States in March after a lengthy legal battle in the Czech Republic where he was first arrested in 2016. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in his first hearing in the San Francisco-based court.

Nikulin is charged with breaches at LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring. He faces three counts of computer intrusion, two counts of intentional transmission of information, code, or command causing damage to a protected computer; two counts of aggravated identity theft; trafficking in unauthorized access devices and conspiracy.

“We’ve been actively monitoring the FBI’s case to pursue those responsible for the 2012 breach of LinkedIn member data,” said a LinkedIn spokesperson. “We are glad to see this progress and appreciate the hard work of law enforcement to resolve this investigation.”

Nikulin appeared in court earlier this month in shackles because he attempted to escape imprisonment and had multiple physical confrontations with U.S. Marshals, according to federal officials. Nikulin’s court-appointed public defender asked to have the shackles removed, but at this point no one expects that to happen soon. He remains uncooperative with guards and corrections officials, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Nikulin’s legal team wants to transfer him from the Alameda County Jail to a federal jail in hopes of improving conditions.

While in the Czech Republic, Nikulin said he was pressed for a false confession on interfering in the 2016 US election. American officials declined to comment on the issue.

Bukh was first contacted by the Russian consulate and asked to help on the case. He  was approved on Wednesday to act as a lawyer for Nikulin by the court. Although Bukh has been in regular and sustained contact with both Nikulin’s family and the Russian consulate, he had yet to speak with his client as of Wednesday night.

The Russian consulate has expressed concerns about Nikulin’s mental condition, and Bukh said he “appears to be depressed.”

Here’s video of Nikulin’s arrest as released by Czech police:

You can read the full indictment against Nikulin below:

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Arkady Bukh, data breaches, Dropbox, Formspring, legal, LinkedIn, Russia, Yevgeniy Nikulin
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