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The hacker who inspired Apple responds to sex assault claims

The hacker who inspired Apple responds to sex assault claims
[Photo: Peter Fuller/Getty Images]

John Draper, a 74-year-old hacker nicknamed “Captain Crunch,” has been accused by multiple men of sexually assaulting them during exercise sessions he invited them to at hacking conventions, The Daily Dot reports. Draper apologized and acknowledged he may have been aroused during some of the  so-called “energy workout” sessions, where he reportedly gave leg massages and received piggyback rides. “But there was nothing intentionally or explicitly sexual towards anyone,” he told The Daily Dot.

In one incident at the Hackers on Planet Earth conference in 2000, Draper climbed on the back of journalist Ethan Smith in a hotel room:

“There is a possibility that I might have had an erection because I am on the back; my pelvis is not really touching his lower back but is, you know, near there. He might have felt a bump—but how do I know that bump wasn’t something in my pocket?” …  “It never occurred to me at the time that it was sexual,” he claimed. “It wasn’t until I had a few complaints in later years that it occurred to me as sexual, at which time I modified the exercises to minimize physical contact as much as possible while still doing the exercises.”

Organizers at hacker conventions also told BuzzFeed they kept an eye on Draper and his behavior with young men, who admired his reputation. As far back as 2001, a profile in The New York Times mentioned that Draper had been disinvited from a prominent gathering called The Hackers Conference, though it didn’t allege any sexual misconduct.

Draper has been involved in hacking and phreaking since the 1970s, when he built devices called “blue boxes” to omit sounds used in phone signaling, enabling free calls. His nickname came from whistles packaged with Cap’n Crunch cereal that happened to make sounds at the frequencies used by AT&T.

His pioneering work on the blue box was also an inspiration for Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in the early days of Apple. In a 2014 piece, Wozniak praised Draper as he sought help dealing with multiple debilitating health issues. “I admire him and those who help him in life,” Wozniak wrote. And as a Daily Dot profile from last month notes, “according to Jobs, in a rare 1994 interview, without him there wouldn’t have been Apple.”

The allegations emerge publicly just as another prominent hacker and privacy activist, Morgan Marquis-Boire, has become the subject of at least 10 reports of sexual assault by women, according to The Verge. Marquis-Boire had previously worked for The Intercept and served as an advisor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, but is no longer affiliated with this organizations, Ars Technica reports.

Correction: an earlier version of this piece mistakenly described a detail in the hotel incident. We regret the error. — Ed.SM