This was only a new crime politically, it was not breaking new ground in computer crime. If he did something non-political the results would be different.
Furthermore, it is unusual punishment - they openly admit it when they make the punishment severe to "set an example." If it is a new crime then they lack a reference point; but in the years following, other example sentences will exist in which case the punishment should be revised upon appeal to keep it in line with the new norm. There should be legal repercussions such that they never openly admit unusual special punishments that discriminate against creative new crimes... and especially politically motivated ones. It won't stop, they just won't openly admit it (just like racists wouldn't admit their unequal treatment.)
Finally, this culture is uncivilized (corruption is another issue.) Everything is about punishment, revenge, and dehumanization. A prison's only practical purpose is to keep society safe from people unable to live in society. Yes, that mature perspective means that some people would be locked up for life for minor crimes... If they can't conform to society's laws then they shouldn't be allowed in society - giving them a "time out period" is foolish. It is like giving a child time out and promptly letting them in on schedule without asking the child if they are going to behave first - no competent adult lets the child out if they refuse to correct the behavior simply because the timer ran out. Should they be abused and dehumanized when in prison? should we have only 1 kind of prison for all types? No. But we do.
Some prisons should be nice communities for dysfunctional people to live out their lives... similar to insane asylums (we hardly have those anymore- they are in prison carving their names into teenage foreheads of their "tried as adult" bitches.) People who contribute to society but LACK some necessary characteristic should be able to contribute in a controlled safe community outside of normal society. A technical mind should be put to constructive (but supervised or limited) use. If Einstein was convicted of statutory rape as a young man because his girl was 17 and he was 18-- we'd never have benefited. What does one do in such cases? Well, be creative; don't ruin his life and rob society of not only potential contributions but the COSTS involved in caging and dehumanization. Monetary fines make an impact in many situations; but only if they are relative.
Sure, dismiss me as some liberal or whatever - it won't change the harm you do to yourself and society for having such an empty head.