Thursday, March 15, 2007

Charges From H-P Pretexting Dropped

The prosecutions brought by California against four defendants for pretexting as part of an internal investigation by Hewlett-Packard have been dropped.  Former chairwoman Patricia Dunn had the charges dismissed completely, while the three other defendants, former H-P ethics officer Kevin Hunsaker and private investigators Ronald DeLia and Matthew DePante, will have their charges dismissed after completing 96 hours of community service and payment of restitution.  Dunn is undergoing treatment for cancer.  The dismissal could be particularly important for Hunsaker because his law license was in jeopardy if he was convicted of the charged offenses, particularly the felony count.  California has a new Attorney General, former Governor and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, and much of the impetus for the case seemed to disappear after his predecessor, Bill Lockyer, left office.

Although the defendants are largely clear of the state charges, it remains to be seen whether the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California will pursue a case against any of them.  A fifth defendant in the state case, private Investigator Bryan Wagner, earlier entered a guilty plea to federal charges, resulting in the dismissal of the state prosecution under a California statute prohibiting a second prosecution for the same conduct.  Wagner agreed to cooperate in the federal investigation, but it's uncertain what knowledge, if any, he has about the conduct of Dunn, Hunsaker, or any other H-P employees.  Turnover in the U.S. Attorney's Office may affect the investigation, with former U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan among the seven (or eight) fired earlier this year by the Department of Justice.  An AP story (here) discusses the dismissal.

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