FORT MYERS, Fla. – Cyber expert and owner of Vanguard Cybersecurity, David Michael Levin, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge for hacking into the Lee County elections website Tuesday.
Levin’s plea for a misdemeanor was a reduction to the felony charges he faced. He will serve 20 days in jail, weekends only, then two years of probation.
One week after primary elections, Levin addressed a judge, apologizing for the security breech which he called a “political stunt” to advance Lee County Supervisor of Elections candidate Dan Sinclair’s campaign.
“I’m sorry about what I did, your Honor. It was a silly political stunt,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to get in and I did. I’ve never done anything like it before and I’m not going to do anything like it again.”
The accused hacker said he worked with Sinclair to show holes in the website’s security, even appearing in two Jan. 25 YouTube videos that showed the hacking process. Levin has since insisted that the hack was an accident.
Sinclair lost his bid for election, only garnering about 10 percent of the vote in the Aug. 30 primary elections. Current Supervisor of Elections, Sharon Harrington, was sent to a runoff after failing to secure a majority win over Tommy Doyle.
Levin was able to log into the website using Harrington’s credentials, so he also wrote a letter addressed to her.
“When I found information that could be used to damage you and your office, I presented it to Dan Sinclair, who I had worked with, Levin wrote. “I then took part in a publicity stunt to advance Mr. Sinclair’s campaign.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began investigating Levin when it received a tip from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office two days after the YouTube videos were published. Levin then told WINK News on Feb. 8 — the same day FDLE seized his laptop — that he was bracing for possible criminal charges for the hack.
“I had a feeling it was extralegal – that perhaps the laws haven’t caught up with the technology,” he said.
A Lee County Judge ordered Levin’s arrest for breaking state laws regarding unauthorized access to any computer, computer system or network or electronic device in early May. He was then arrested and was facing three third-degree felony charges for hacking into the Lee County Elections Office website on Dec. 19 and the Divisions of Elections website on Jan. 4 and Jan. 31.
Levin said he had no excuse for his actions, which were “out of character.”
“I am truly sorry for what happened and can only hope that someday we can put this matter behind us. God bless you and support you as you heal from the heartache from which I am responsible,” Levin said.
He will go to law school during the week.