Lawyer for alleged LinkedIn hacker wants out, says client is 'not sane'

An entrance to the Phillip Burton Federal Building, which houses the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in San Francisco. (Sam Wheeler / Wikimedia Commons)

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The attorney for Yevgeniy Nikulin has had enough.

Defense counsel Arkady Bukh has asked Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California to allow him to withdraw as the lawyer for the Russian man accused of stealing more than 100 million usernames and passwords from LinkedIn, Dropbox, and other sites.

The court filing in San Francisco on Tuesday marks the end of a chapter in Nikulin’s long and strange story. The alleged scammer arrived in the U.S. more than a year ago after he was arrested in Prague on charges related to stealing some 117 million usernames and passwords. Nikulin since then has refused to cooperate in his defense, and underwent a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation in which he ultimately was determined fit to stand trial.

The defense team, led by Bukh, had embarked on novel legal strategy in which it would have asked the court to extradite Nikulin back to Russia had he been ruled incompetent. When that plan failed, the case seemed poised for trial without another interruption. That was until Nikulin’s behavior apparently worsened during a mysterious meeting with his lawyers earlier this month.

“[D]uring Mr. Bukh’s visit on or about June 17, 2019, Mr. Nikulin made bizarre requests, which cannot be disclosed based on attorney-client privilege, but their nature and the way they were asked indicate that Mr. Nikulin simply is not sane,” Bukh states in a court filing. “This was the last straw that convinced [the attorney] that it would be a travesty of justice and a breach of ethical norms to continue representing Mr. Nikulin in this matter.”

Doctors previously diagnosed Nikulin with acute stress response, severe mood swings and with displaying symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, according to court records. He has been strapped to beds, made to wear a diaper, accused of attacking U.S. authorities transporting him through correctional facilities and answering questions about his case by changing the subject. According to the defense, Nikulin would ask, “how is the weather outside?” “how do you feel?” and about his girlfriend.

The Bukh firm will continue to represent Nikulin in some capacity. But the lead attorney is bowing out after reported negotiations with government attorneys failed to yield a plea deal, and the plan to convince the court to send Nikulin home only delayed the trial. U.S. prosecutors previously said their evidence against Nikulin includes roughly three terabytes of digital forensics, and tens of thousands of pages of discovery materials.

The most recent court filing is available in full below.

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Arkady Bukh, legal, LinkedIn, Yevgeniy Nikulin
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