oldcomputer.jpgA former city of San Francisco network engineer convicted in April of locking the city out of its main computer network for nearly two weeks in 2008 will be sentenced next week, a judge said today.

Judge Teri Jackson heard motions this afternoon from defense attorneys for Terry Childs requesting his conviction for felony computer tampering be overturned and that he be granted a new trial.

Jackson denied both motions.

Childs, 45, of Pittsburg, was scheduled to also be sentenced this afternoon, but by 4 p.m., Jackson decided to postpone sentencing until Aug. 6 in order to give attorneys from both sides time to fully argue their cases.

Prosecutors are asking Jackson to sentence Childs to five years in prison, the maximum possible, for withholding passwords to the city’s then-new FiberWAN network from his superiors at the Department of Technology, and later, from police, between July 9 and July 21, 2008.

Childs had been in charge of implementing the FiberWAN, which handles about 60 percent of the network traffic for city departments.

During the lockout, city officials feared Childs, who had clashed before with his superiors, might have installed traps on the network that would cripple the city if power were somehow shut off.

Childs eventually agreed to give the passwords to Mayor Gavin Newsom, who visited him in his jail cell.

Childs maintained he never wanted to harm the network he helped build. He had tried previously to obtain a patent for its configurations, which he considered his intellectual property.

Ultimately, apart from the city being unable to access the system for 12 days, no harm was done.

Childs’ attorneys are asking that he be sentenced to probation.

At his trial, Childs testified that other employees were not qualified to have the passwords under established industry guidelines for computer network engineers.

Childs’ attorneys described him as a stressed-out “workaholic” who was passionate about network security, and they said his refusal to hand over the passwords did not constitute a crime. They also described workings at the Department of Technology as dysfunctional.

After a trial that lasted several months, a jury on April 27 convicted Childs of one felony count of computer tampering with an allegation it cost the city more than $200,000.

Prosecutors are seeking about $1.5 million in restitution from Childs for costs associated with technicians trying to regain access to the network and later doing vulnerability testing. Childs’ attorneys are opposing that amount.

Childs is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 6 at 2 p.m.

If Jackson sentences him to prison, he will receive credit for time already served in jail.

However, Jackson ruled today that under a new California law that went into effect this year, Childs would receive fewer jail credits because he has prior felony convictions for robbery and burglary.

He has remained in custody since his arrest in July 2008 and has served 748 days as of today, according to Jackson.

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  • Briana

    Ok, not that I’m a huge supporter or Orwellian shenanigans like background checks and whatnot. But when I read “because [Childs] has prior felony convictions for robbery and burglary”, I immediately wondered how he passed an initial IT background check in the first place. Clearly he’s a talented dude, but why is the city of SF hiring people with criminal records into their IT department, and then allowing them access to secure systems? No judgement on Childs at all here, because he’s sort of my hero. But, come on SF.