Judge grants TJX hacker sentencing delay over health

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The sentencing of TJX hacker Albert Gonzalez was halted after a psychiatrist determined that he has a developmental disorder and may not have known he was committing a crime, according to information filed by his attorneys this week in federal court in Boston.

A forensic psychiatrist retained by Gonzalez determined that the hacker's criminal actions were consistent with the behaviors of someone who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, as well as an internet addiction. The psychiatrist's report questions whether Gonzalez had the “capability to knowingly evaluate the wrongfulness of his actions and consciously behave lawfully and avoid crime," according to court documents.

Gonzalez, 28, of Miami, pleaded guilty in September to multiple federal charges, including conspiracy, computer fraud, access device fraud and identity theft.

He was one of the leaders of an international ring of credit card thieves who hacked into the networks of numerous retailers, including TJX (which owns T.J. Maxx), BJ's Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble and Sports Authority. Gonzalez and his co-conspirators were able to steal more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers, according to federal prosecutors.

He was scheduled to be sentenced this Monday, but federal Judge Patti Saris agreed to delay sentencing until March 18 so prosecutors could consider information submitted to the court by Gonzalez's attorney regarding his health. Gonzalez has refused to undergo a second psychiatric evaluation by a government expert to confirm the purported conditions.

His lawyers have asked that his sentence be on the lower end of the 15-to-25 year prison term he is facing as part of his plea agreement. An attorney for Gonzalez could not be reached for comment.

Separately, earlier this month, Gonzalez agreed to plead guilty to hacking into the network of Heartland Payment Systems and several other companies to steal more than 130 million credit and debit card numbers. He asked to have the two outstanding cases consolidated, but a federal judge denied the request. For the Heartland Payment Systems hack, Gonzalez was charged with conspiracy and conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and faces up to 25 years in prison.

He is scheduled to be sentenced in that case on Dec. 29.

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