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Previously: Gavin Newsom Expected To Testify In Trial Of SF Network Engineer Tuesday

Elsewhere: Rare day in court – Mayor Newsom on the stand Chron, Mayor gives details of jail visit with ex-city engineer Ex, Did Terry Childs almost ruin Newsom’s wedding? Ex, Mayor Newsom Testifies in Criminal Trial KCBS



4:49 PM: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom testified today in the trial of a man accused of hijacking the city’s computer system in 2008, telling jurors how he visited the defendant in jail to persuade him to give up a secret password.

Newsom said that when he met with former city technology worker Terry Childs in jail on July 21, 2008, “I had a singular purpose, and that was to walk out with the password.”
“I had grave concern that the system was being put in peril,” he testified.

Childs, 45, of Pittsburg, a former lead engineer for the city’s main computer system, has been on trial before a jury in the court of San Francisco Superior Court Judge Teri Jackson since December on a charge of computer tampering.

He is accused of rigging the network with a password known only to himself and locking the city out of the system for 12 days, from July 9 to 21, 2008.

The new fiber-optic network, known as Fiber Wide Area Network or FiberWAN, handles most of the city’s computer traffic, including law enforcement, and Childs had been in charge of implementing it.

Prosecutors say the alleged tampering cost the city $1.75 million in efforts to regain control of the network and conduct vulnerability testing.

Newsom, who was invited to the July 21 jail meeting by Childs’ then-defense lawyer Erin Crane, said he feared the encounter could result in a booby trap and that the supposed password could cause more damage. But he said he concluded during the 20-minute meeting that Childs was sincere.

Newsom said he told Childs he was getting married to his second wife, Jennifer Siebel, the following weekend and was afraid there could be a complete breakdown of the system while he was gone.

“I was hopeful that would solicit a response on a human level,” Newsom said. “I think Mr. Childs was appreciative of that concern.”

Newsom said Crane had told him Childs wanted to communicate “some background” about the city’s technology department. Newsom testified he listened to Childs’ concerns during part of the meeting and concluded that Childs didn’t trust anyone in the department, but Newsom gave no other details of what Childs said.

At the same time, the mayor testified, he told Childs of “my discontent and displeasure” and said to Childs, “There needs to be accountability. Don’t make this worse.”

Newsom also said he made no promises to Crane about the course of his prosecution.

When Crane steered the conversation back to the password, Newsom said, Childs then dictated to Newsom a lengthy numerical password, which the mayor wrote down on a piece of paper.

Shortly afterward, Newsom gave the password to a group of technology managers from the city and Cisco Systems Inc. after receiving their assurances that the password could be tested without risking further damage to the system from a possible booby trap.

But it turned out that the password didn’t work, Newsom testified. The mayor said, “I was furious. I had trusted that he did the right thing, that there was veracity. I felt used.”

Newsom said he then contacted Crane, who over the next few hours provided two installments of configuration instructions that together with the password finally enabled city technology managers to get back into the system.

During cross-examination by Childs’ current defense attorney, Richard Shikman, Newsom conceded that no city services broke down during the 12-day lockout.

But the mayor added, “The only thing that went down was the balance sheet, because of the city’s costs.”

During opening statements in the case in December, Shikman portrayed Childs as a dedicated workaholic who was passionate about computer security.

Childs has been in custody on $5 million bail since his arrest on July 13, 2008.

If convicted of the charge of computer tampering with an enhancement that the resulting financial loss exceeded $200,000, he could face a maximum five-year sentence. He would receive credit, however, for time already served plus possible additional credit for good conduct while in jail.

11:44 AM: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom testified today in the trial of a man accused of hijacking the city’s computer system in 2008, telling jurors how he visited the defendant in jail to compel him to give up a secret password.

Newsom said that when he met with defendant Terry Childs in jail on July 21, 2008, “I had a singular purpose, and that was to walk out with the password.”

Childs, 45, a former lead engineer for the city’s main computer system, has been on trial before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Teri Jackson since December on a charge of computer tampering. He is accused of locking the city out of its FiberWAN network for 12 days, from July 9 to 21, 2008.

The new fiber-optic network handles most of the city’s computer traffic between several departments, including payroll, e-mail and law enforcement, and Childs had been in charge of implementing it.

Prosecutors say the alleged tampering cost the city $1.75 million.

Newsom, who was invited to the July 21 jail meeting by Childs’ then-defense lawyer, said he feared that the encounter could be a booby trap and that the supposed password could cause more damage. But he said he concluded during the 20-minute meeting that Childs was sincere.

Newsom said he told Childs he was getting married to his second wife, Jennifer Siebel, the following weekend and was afraid there could be a complete breakdown of the system while he was gone.

“I was hopeful that would solicit a response on a human level,” Newsom said. “I think Mr. Childs was appreciative of that concern.”

When it turned out that the lengthy numerical password Childs gave him didn’t work, Newsom said, “I was furious. I felt used.”

Over the next few hours, Childs’ defense lawyer provided two installments of configuration instructions that finally enabled city technology managers to get back into the system.

Childs has been in custody on $5 million bail since July 2008. If convicted, he could face a maximum five-year sentence but would receive credit for time already served.

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  • Jimbo

    Interesting article, but where did you get the picture of that computer? The Bible?

  • rgm

    This is such a fascinating case.

    First, Childs is charged with network tampering, or some such crime, for not actually doing anything but pedantically obeying their network security policy. (Seems like he understood what he was doing by withholding the ‘password,’ but probably never imagined he’d be in court over this.)

    When it turned out that the lengthy numerical password Childs gave him didn’t work, Newsom said, “I was furious. I felt used.”

    Childs ought to be on trial for hurting Newsom’s feelings — what a jerk!

    Over the next few hours, Childs’ defense lawyer provided two installments of configuration instructions that finally enabled city technology managers to get back into the system.

    So Childs was locked up, pretty much knew he couldn’t do much more than he’d already done, and had a laugh by giving Newsom a fake password. (To note: anyone attempting to ‘solicit a response on a human level’ by sharing some story about marrying a second wife in a week probably should expect failure.) Then Childs directed his attorney to hand over the real method for recovering control of the network. (Second note: the network which never went down and, had it gone down, could have given cause for a judge to compel Childs to spill the beans? But fuckit, I’m not a lawyer or a judge.)

  • Megan Allison

    “I’m about to marry a rich blonde model/actress, and I just don’t want the shit to hit the fan while I’m honeymooning in the tropics, you feel me?”

    “No.”