Sports often has an “all’s fair” feeling to it, which is fine unless the things regarded as fair among teams violate federal law.
Former St. Louis Cardinals executive Christopher Correa was sentenced Monday to 46 months in prison for illegal incursions into the Astros’ computer database, wrapping up a case of sports-related cybercrime that a federal judge summed up as plain, old-fashioned theft.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes levied the 46-month sentence and ordered the hacker to pay $279,037 in restitution on Monday from a federal courthouse in Houston. He was also sentenced to two years of supervised release when he’s released from prison.
In Monday’s sentencing hearing, Correa called his hacks “reckless,” but Hughes said what he perpetrated went beyond that.
As explained after news of the investigation first emerged in 2015, the NFL should be concerned that, at some point, an ambitious and creative prosecutor will start poking around the business of a team or the league office itself, convene a grand jury, and start indicting ham sandwiches.
Correa, who was fired in July 2015, pleaded guilty to five counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer in January and faced 25 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine.
“We are grateful that the court agreed to our sentencing recommendation as it was based upon our evaluation of the seriousness of the crime and the actions of the defendant,” U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson said in a statement. “I am proud of the investigators and the federal prosecutor assigned the case who worked diligently to ferret out all the facts. Today, justice was done.”
In a letter written by Correa, he said he was “overwhelmed with remorse and regret for my actions.” “I violated my values and it was wrong … I behaved shamefully,” he said. “The whole episode represents the worst thing I’ve done in my life by far.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement that Correa admitted to illegally accessing the Astros’ proprietary information from March 2013 through at least March 2014. The Astros’ rankings for every eligible player in the draft as ranked by the Astros scouts and regional scouting reports of prospects were among the information Correa hacked into in 2013. The breach was first reported in June 2014.
Correa was able to obtain password information from a laptop that was turned into him from a Cardinals employee who had left St. Louis to take a job with the Astros. Correa used variations of the passwords on the laptop to gain entry into the Astros’ servers.
With the sentencing over, MLB could still discipline the Cardinals organization with a fine or loss of draft picks.
The Cardinals aren’t saying much, which comes as no surprise as an active investigation is still underway.
“As we did with the government during its investigation, we intend to fully cooperate with the Commissioner’s Office in connection with its investigation so that this matter can finally be resolved,” Cardinals chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. “Pending the outcome of the commissioner’s investigation, we will have no further comment.”
The Cardinals are among baseball’s most successful franchises. Only the New York Yankees have more World Series titles than the 11 won by St. Louis. The Astros and Cardinals were rivals in the National League Central until Houston moved to the American League in 2013.