Elsewhere: Judge tosses much of S.F. computer-hijack case

A San Francisco Superior Court judge today dismissed three of the four charges against a former city employee accused of tampering with San Francisco’s main computer network.

Terry Childs, a former Department of Technology network engineer jailed since last summer after allegedly rigging the city’s FiberWAN network and installing his own passwords, had been charged with four felony counts of computer network tampering.

After his preliminary hearing in December, Childs’ attorneys filed a motion challenging the evidence presented at the hearing.

Judge Kevin McCarthy today found insufficient evidence for three of the four counts.

Prosecutor Conrad Del Rosario said he will appeal the ruling and try to have the three counts reinstated.

According to Childs’ attorney Richard Shikman, the three counts for which McCarthy found insufficient evidence relate to accusations he had improperly connected three modems to the network, “essentially an anti-hacking statute,” he said.

A fourth count that was allowed to stand was for Childs’ alleged refusal to hand over the passwords to the system to network administrators.

“No actual (network) services … were affected,” Shikman maintained today.

Prosecutors have alleged that last year between June and July, Childs, who had been in charge of implementing the new network for the city, essentially commandeered the system, setting up his own passwords and denying access to other network administrators. They also alleged he installed devices on the network that could have caused a full system failure if power were to be shut down.

Childs, 44, of Pittsburg, was arrested and charged in July.

Administrators later regained access to the system after Childs gave up the passwords to Mayor Gavin Newsom, who visited him in his jail cell. The city estimated repairs to the FiberWAN network at as much as $1 million.

Following McCarthy’s ruling today, Childs reentered a plea of not guilty to the remaining charge. He is scheduled to return to court Monday for a date setting hearing in the case.
Shikman also said he intends to file a new motion to reduce Childs’ bail, currently set at $5 million.

If convicted of the remaining charge, Childs could still face a maximum five-year prison sentence, Del Rosario said.

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