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More criminal charges possible in HP scandal

Authorities hint others may be charged in case of HP investigating boardroom leaks

Patricia Dunn, former chairman of Hewlett-Packard (HP), leaves Superior Court with her husband Bill Jahnke after answering charges in San Jose, Califo...

Patricia Dunn, former chairman of Hewlett-Packard (HP), leaves Superior Court with her husband Bill Jahnke after answering charges in San Jose, Califo...

Authorities have hinted they may file more charges in Hewlett-Packard Co's ill-fated media-leak investigation, even after wrangling two of the technology company's top insiders.
Ousted Chairwoman Patricia Dunn and former ethics chief Kevin Hunsaker surrendered, were booked and released Thursday, a day after being charged - along with three private investigators - with felonies for their roles in HP's spying scandal.
At least one expert said the California Attorney General's office might strike plea deals with the three investigators - Ronald DeLia, Matthew DePante and Bryan Wagner - to secure their testimony against Dunn and Hunsaker and gather evidence against any other HP insiders believed to have sanctioned their conduct.
'Tip of the iceberg'
"Their involvement is just the tip of the iceberg," said Scott Christie, a former prosecutor who headed the computer hacking and intellectual property unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey.
"Others knew about what they were doing, and approved of their conduct. There may be others charged and there may not be, but I would expect the AG will try to work his way up the ladder," Christie added.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer said after filing the charges in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Wednesday that the investigation was not complete.
HP CEO Mark Hurd is not among those named in the criminal complaint, nor was HP's former General Counsel Ann Baskins, who had some oversight over the probe.
Dunn appeared briefly in court Thursday, signing a promise to return to court on November 17 for an arraignment. Afterward, she smiled and held hands with her husband before hopping in a chauffeur-driven sedan for the short trip to the county sheriff's office for booking.
Hunsaker also was booked and released, and his arraignment was scheduled for December 6, his legal team said.
DeLia and Wagner, both out of state, have made arrangements to surrender within a week, according to Lockyer's office. Prosecutors said they had not yet been able to reach the lawyer for DePante. A call to that lawyer by The Associated Press on Thursday was not returned.
The five defendants each face four felony counts: use of false or fraudulent pretenses to obtain confidential information from a public utility; unauthorized access to computer data; identity theft; and conspiracy to commit each of those crimes. Each charge carries a fine of up to US$10,000 and three years in prison.
HP's investigation, which took place earlier this year and in 2005, erupted into a national scandal last month after HP disclosed that detectives it hired had obtained the private phone records of directors, employees and journalists in HP's effort to ferret out the source of media leaks.
Using a shady tactic known as "pretexting," the detectives obtained the Social Security government identification numbers of their targets and fooled telephone companies into divulging their detailed call logs.
After Dunn's court appearance, neither she nor an attorney representing her, S. Raj Chatterjee, would comment.
But in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" to be broadcast Sunday, Dunn defended the investigation of directors and members of the media.
"Investigations, by their nature, are intrusive," Dunn said, according to excerpts released by the network Thursday. "If you think that Hewlett-Packard is the only company that has an investigations force - which by the way, is peopled mostly with former law enforcement officers that do all kinds of private detective work, monitoring, posing as other people in order to solve problems to protect shareholder value - you're being naive."
Hunsaker's lead lawyer, Michael Pancer, reiterated Thursday that his client had been assured of the legality of the tactics and was fired from HP when he refused to resign.
"At no time did he - or would he - ever authorize or engage in any activity that he thought was illegal," Pancer said in a statement.
In all, the personal data of more than 24 people were compromised, including one instance in January when an investigator changed the password for a reporter's cell phone and viewed her call log for nine minutes, according to the criminal complaint.


Updated : 2021-05-12 12:52 GMT+08:00