Trial of alleged LinkedIn hacker postponed pending psychiatric exam

12 October 2018 8:38am

9 October 2018. By Joshua Sisco

The hacking trial of Russian national Yevgeniy Nikulin, which had been set to begin in January 2019, will be postponed pending a psychiatric examination, a federal judge ruled.

At a Tuesday afternoon hearing in San Francisco, US District Judge William Alsup canceled the pending trial and ordered Nikulin to be committed to an unspecified Federal Bureau of Prisons facility for an in-patient examination.

The effort to have Nikulin examined is the second attempt by the court to get an evaluation of his mental competency to stand trial for allegedly hacking websites including LinkedIn and Dropbox. In August, Alsup ordered an examination of Nikulin, but he refused all efforts by the court-appointed doctor, his attorney, Valery Nechay, told the court.

Nikulin is in federal custody, but is housed at the Santa Rita jail in Alameda County, California, a county facility.

The postponement will put the case on hold for at least four months. It can take up to six months to get a report from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Department of Justice attorney Michelle Kane told the court.

Nikulin was arrested in the Czech Republic on Oct. 5, 2016, and extradited to the US in March 2018. According to his indictment, unsealed later that month, he was able to access the systems of LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring.

He has had a troubled time in US custody since arriving in the country. He attempted to escape during a doctor's visit the day he arrived and has had behavioral issues in jail. He is currently in solitary confinement, according to his attorneys.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Nechay said she has seen no change in her client, who she believes does fully grasp the severity of his situation.

Nechay previously said the Russian government has shown a strong interest in her client’s case, which included an unannounced visit from officials of the Russian embassy in Washington, DC. Nechay said Tuesday that interest appears to have waned since the summer, but said Nikulin's uncooperative behavior could stem in part from his fear of the Russian government.

Upon his arrival in the US, Nechay said Nikulin exhibited signs of trauma, but she did not elaborate.

Nikulin is set to be back in court Feb. 12, for a hearing to determine his competency to stand trial.

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