Oct 7, 7:49 PM EDT

Journalist guilty of helping hacking group Anonymous alter story on Los Angeles Times' website

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- A well-known social media journalist was found guilty Wednesday of conspiring with the hacking group Anonymous to break into the Los Angeles Times' website and alter a story.

Matthew Keys, 28, of Vacaville, was convicted of giving the group the login credentials to The Tribune Co.'s computer system. The company owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and other media companies.

He was fired by Tribune-owned FOX affiliate KTXL-TV in Sacramento two months before the Times' website was hacked, and federal prosecutors in Sacramento say he wanted payback. He was fired by the Reuters news agency after charges were filed in 2013.

Prosecutors say a hacker used the login information that Keys posted in an Internet chat room to gain access to the Times' computer system and alter a December 2010 story. They say Keys encouraged the hacking and praised the results.

His attorneys contended that any alteration was a relatively harmless prank that did not merit charges carrying a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison. As a first-time offender, prosecutors say Keys will face far less time at his Jan. 20 sentencing.

Tor Ekeland, one of the defense attorneys, said in an email that Keys will appeal, but he did not comment further.

"Although this case has drawn attention because of Matthew Keys' employment in the news media, this was simply a case about a disgruntled employee who used his technical skills to taunt and torment his former employer," U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said in a statement.

Court documents say the hacking cost Tribune nearly $18,000 for the 333 hours that employees spent responding to the hack. But Keys' attorneys said restoring the original headline, byline and first paragraphs of the story took less than an hour and the cost falls below the $5,000 loss required to make the violation a felony.

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