Peacock’s ‘The Battle for Justina Pelletier’ delves into the complicated case of Justina Pelletier, who was separated from her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier, and placed under psychiatric care at the Boston Children’s Hospital for almost 1.5 years. As the hospital accused the 14-year-old’s parents of medical abuse, she pleaded to return home to them.
The shocking case caught the attention of numerous media houses and social activists, including Martin “Marty” Gottesfeld, who did the unthinkable by launching a cyberattack on the hospital to pressure them into releasing Justina. So, if you’re curious about Marty and his current whereabouts, we have you covered!
Who is Marty Gottesfeld?
Born as Martin Karim, Marty Gottesfeld is Bangladeshi on his father’s side and was raised by his maternal grandparents in Andover, Massachusetts. In early 2013, the 29-year-old moved to Somerville, Massachusetts, and worked as a Senior Systems Integrations Officer for a tech company in Connecticut. He had always been very vocal about supporting social causes and frequently voiced his dissent against unfair government policies and corruption.
Hence, when Marty heard about the tragic case of Justina Pelletier in December 2013, he was deeply moved and angry at the Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) for confining her away from her parents. Initially, the tech employee was hopeful that the courts would favor the Pelletiers and return the teenager to her family. However, when several months passed and Justina was still being kept in the hospital’s psychiatric ward, he decided to raise his voice regarding the violation of her rights.
Marty was a self-proclaimed member of Anonymous, an international hacktivist collective known for launching cyber attacks against government and church institutions. On March 23, 2014, he reportedly posted a YouTube video on behalf of Anonymous, calling for action against BCH’s treatment of Justina. In a computer-generated voice, the video stated that the organization would punish those held accountable and would not relent till the teenager was freed. It also gave the contact details of the prosecutor and hospital administrator involved.
Government records claimed that the video redirected viewers to a website that gave the hospital’s server information and called for an attack; this was later debated. Despite the footage bringing everyone’s attention to Justina’s story, no action was taken, and the BCH continued to retain her. She was eventually transferred to Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, a residential facility in Framingham, Massachusetts. Seeing no change or much support from his fellow Anonymous members, Marty took matters into his own hands and initiated a cyber attack against the BCH and the Wayside facility on April 19, 2014.
That week, the two institutions were having a fundraiser, and Marty discovered they had kept their donation page in the same network as their other information. Hence, the hacktivist launched a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) to their computer systems and directed significant traffic there. The websites slowed down significantly, but this did not compromise the patients’ and medical records. As a result, BCH’s website and servers were out of service for almost seven days, causing utter chaos.
Interestingly, the hospital claimed that the attack disrupted day-to-day operations as well as research being done. The authorities further alleged that the attack cost $300,000 to mitigate, resulting in another $300,000 in losses due to the hospital’s donation website crashing. This major incident brought much attention and support for Justina’s case, but it also put Marty on the FBI’s radar in October 2014.
Where is Marty Gottesfeld Today?
In February 2016, Marty Gottesfeld realized that the FBI was closing in on him. Hence, he discreetly left for Cuba with his wife, Dana Barach, but their sailboat broke down at sea, and they sent out a distress call. A nearby Disney cruise ship responded and rescued them, but the hacktivist was arrested upon arrival in Miami. Marty was charged with conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. In 2019, his case went to trial three years later, and he was found guilty on two counts.
Marty was sentenced to ten years in prison and is currently incarcerated at the Communications Management Unit in Indiana. According to his wife, the high-security facility keeps him in solitary confinement for 22 hours daily, and he is allowed only two fifteen-minute calls weekly. Dana divulged in the documentary that Marty’s communication is heavily monitored. Yet, he continues to support social causes and voices his opinions on government policies by corresponding with media organizations through her.
As per the documentary, the hacktivist’s projected release date is April 11, 2024, and he has a job offer from a progressive publishing house to work as a web developer. Interestingly, Marty has stated in numerous interviews that he does not regret what he did to help Justina and would do it all over again if needed. On the other hand, she acknowledged his efforts for her in the documentary and shared that she would love to meet him in person one day.