I started off w/ a lengthy account of getting busted, but lost all the content some way through. I suppose I'll save it for a book or something anyhow. Having been busted, and just completed my sentence and finalized paperwork, I can provide some decent advice, and relate similar events.
1) As some have stated, bringing attention to yourself is bad. It is natural due to the absurdity of the punishment for the crime. Your desire to reach out to others as a warning is an admirable trait that demonstrates you care about your fellow man. Unfortunately it doesn't help. It could be construed as obstruction of justice and tampering with an ongoing investigation. If you're going to reach out, it has to be full fledged and hope the media can paint you as a martyr. Otherwise, everything you say here is damaging. If there is *anything* they can find illegal in the materials they confiscated, skip the martyr approach and STFU.
2) A good lawyer goes a long way. This case proves that money talks so fight fire with fire. Do the best you can do within reason.
3) You will never get your seized hardware back. I'm sure some of it will end up in some agent's home too. When they took my computers, they also stole my UPSs, monitors, printers, switches, network cables, keyboards, mice, mouse pads, speakers, and I feel like I'm forgetting some things. The final documentation mentioned nothing more than the computers.
4) You stated you're not charged with anything (yet). My case took 1 year before I ever got offered a plea, and that was only after it was expedited b/c a new D.A. w/ a reputation of being tough on "cyber-terrorism" was replacing the existing one. That waiting period was worse than any punishment I endured as it was mental hell.
5) Arguing this case would be difficult, expensive, and probably not yield results better than a plea. If there was anything illegal (other than the modchips) then you probably cant win fighting it. If/when you get a plea, examine it thoroughly for errors. Specifically with regards to timelines. I analyzed mine 100 times before agreeing, and didnt catch many of the errors until years later, as I was happy to see some of what wasn't in there. For example, one clause stated that "In a period of 180 days" I had done something. However, I had only committed my 'crime' for 60 days at best. The one thing I did catch and disagree with was that it said I made 'private financial gain.' I never made a dime and in fact lost a lot of money. When I requested this be removed, they said that the existence of a ratio system (ftp site) was a currency. However, I never utilized the ratio, as only the 5 users on my site were friends. I wish I had been more persistent about getting this detail removed. Anything you don't correct will bother you for life.
6) You mentioned something about a child porn case taking priority. Those delays are what took a year for my case to move forward. I heard all about child porn cases, serial killers, pedophiles. I believe they tell you these things because they want you to feel you're on an equal level to these people, subliminally. Don't let this phase you. My crime was a post 9/11 follow-up and as such, I was referred to as a cyber-terrorist.
7) Try to think about the details of what communications you had already, specifically regarding the sting operation. Did you sell the modchip or did you sell the labor? It makes a difference regarding 'private financial gain' I mentioned before. Did you involve anyone else in your operation that they know about? If so, they can tack on conspiracy charges. You can get felonies for each 'crime' as well as a conspiracy to commit such crimes, effectively doubling your charges.
8) If you can swing it, try to be awarded 'discovery' when your case is over. It's a report of the investigation, so you can know what they knew about you. If you don't, you could have a lot of unanswered questions. However, ignorance is bliss, so knowing could just frustrate you that much more. Your call here, but don't sacrifice something else for this detail.
9) Federal sentencing guidelines
force a judge to sentence you within a range, based on a point system. His hands are tied, so even if, like in my case, the judge says "this case is bullshit" and says a lot of nasty stuff to the prosecution IN COURT, he can't do anything about it. There are four tiers. In the first tier the judge can opt for lesser punishments of probation/house arrest/halfway house. If you have X points then you get X-X+2 years of prison. I don't remember the specifics and I believe they've changed in 2006 and 2007.
10) Start NOW collecting character letters from friends and family. A character letter is like a reference for a job. Have someone write about a 1 page document pleading to the judge for leniency and describing your good traits. Collect as many as you can get. Read them all, and don't feel compelled to use them all. These letters will also reveal a lot about the people around you that you never knew, and what they think about you. You'll be surprised by both the great things, and sadly, some people who fail to provide them will surprise and disappoint you.
11) Your attorney should try to push the D.A. to request the judge for a "motion for downward depature" due to your cooperation with law enforcement. When they told you they had a better deal for you by surrendering right then, they "railroaded" you which is illegal. Of course, they'll never be called on it, thats just good work and a pat on the back. However, your lawyer should be able to use this to prove "substantial assistance." It may not be enough, in which case they may want to turn you into a mole for that condition. In that case, that's your decision you have to live with. You have to decide if you want to be a rat and live with that, or if you want to take your raping like a man.
12) If/when you have your day in court, be prepared for the moment when the judge will ask you if you have anything to say to the courts. This is not the time to blame the Sony/Warner for profiting from retail albums, while also making money when someone pirates using their internet, cd burners, blank cd media, and then suing them. Apologize to the court, your family, Bill Gates, Nintendo, the taxpayers, and state that you admit what you did was wrong (or at least that you knew it was against the law) and that you'd like to move on with your life and have a positive impact on society. If you can stomach it, the fact you have a new baby should be used as a bargaining chip.
13) If you're in school, stay in school. Get good grades. Get a job. Excel at your job. Prove that even in the face of adversity, you don't buckle, you thrive. It will give your lawyer one more thing to say about you, and you'll prove it to yourself as well. Plus, the workplace is another place to get character letters.
14) If your lawyer decides the plea is the best route, he may arrange a meeting for you and the agent(s) involved in your case. In this case, you're essentially confessing, and they'll write the plea based on some of this information. They'll probably have a human lie detector there too. His job is to sit there, not speak, and watch you and see not only if you're telling the truth, but if you'd be a credible witness. There is no need to lie here, but you don't have to volunteer anything they don't ask for. Also, these guys practice their interrogation skills and do some routines like you've seen on TV (good cop / bad cop). Don't be nervous, and keep this meeting light-hearted. You can even have some fun with it if you're a good conversationalist. Body language speaks volumes, and you can turn some of it back on them. If the investigative agent strikes a nerve or touches a subject you don't like, turn your body away from him, giving him less attention. Direct some questions and comments toward the lie detector. You can have a *little* fun with this. Obviously, don't overdo it.
15) Settle the score with your girl's parents. Remind them that you fathered their grandchild. Take the approach I mentioned for the court room. Admit that while anyone can agree what you're in trouble for is bullshit, you did know that you were breaking the law, and you're deeply sorry for putting your/her family through stress. Explain that you need the support of your friends and family most right now, and that anything less is unacceptable. I assume its the mother-in-law, as its always that
lovely lady. Man up to the father-in-law, and tell him that you love his daughter, you don't want to harm anyone, and you just want the chance to be a good father like him. (Regardless of what you might think about him). I didn't catch if you're married, but if you aren't you might start considering it, as it will help matters in court as well. Furthermore, if you're in one of the few backwards states with the law still left, they can add "cohabitation" to your list of charges.
I have a lot more advice for post legal system, but this is a lot as is, and thats a while away. The advice and concerns I can give on living out your sentence would only bother you now more than help. Take care, be careful, stop talking on public forums that law enforcement (HI THERE!) reads. Google some breathing exercises and stress management techniques. This will be over one day. For now, read what I've contributed, and take steps to lead a productive life. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.