The activist who distributed a fake press release causing a coal company’s share price to crash has escaped serving jail time.
Jonathan Moylan, who pleaded guilty in the New South Wales Supreme Court to disseminating false or misleading information affecting market participation, was sentenced to one year and eight month jail term.
But he was immediately released on a good behaviour for two years.
He faced up to 10 years in prison and or a $765,000 fine for the offence.
In 2013, the 26-year-old Newcastle environmentalist released a false statement from the ANZ Bank to 306 recipients, 295 of whom were journalists, claiming the bank had withdrawn funding for Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek project on environmental grounds.
The release published by AAP and the Australian Financial Review reportedly caused a temporary $300 million plunge in the share value of Whitehaven Coal.
What a massive relief! Jono Moylan released immediately on good behaviour bond for two years #standwithjono
— Greenpeace Aus Pac (@GreenpeaceAustP) July 25, 2014
Moylan’s supporters, who are campaigning against a jail term, held a silent vigil before his last court appearance earlier this month and were outside court again on Friday.
The support group Stand With Jono has been fundraising to support the transport, administrative expenses and phone costs for Moylan and his support team. Twitter has been flooded by support for Moylan, with many saying “activism is not a crime”.
Seeking to highlight the media’s role in the incident, the defence counsel for Moylan told the court the decision by some journalists to publish the release without “appropriate journalistic safeguards” was particularly damaging.