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Juror Explains Guilty Vote In Terry Childs Case 537

Posted by timothy
from the looked-guilty-from-a-distance dept.
alphadogg writes "Terry Childs, the San Francisco network administrator who refused to hand over passwords to his boss, was found guilty of one felony count of denying computer services, a jury found Tuesday. Now, one of those jurors (Jason Chilton, juror #4) is speaking out in an interview with IDG News Service's Bob McMillan: 'The questions were, first, did the defendant know he caused a disruption or a denial of computer service. It was rather easy for us to answer, "Yes there was a denial of service." And that service was the ability to administer the routers and switches of the FiberWAN. That was the first aspect of it. The second aspect was the denial to an authorized user. And for us that's what we really had to spend the most time on, defining who an authorized user was. Because that wasn't one of the definitions given to us.'"
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Juror Explains Guilty Vote In Terry Childs Case

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  • by BlueBoxSW.com (745855) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @01:01PM (#32033956) Homepage

    I tend to agree.

    I don't see this as one of our own being unjustly persecuted.

    I see bad behavior combined with a smug sense of self-importance causing real damage and being properly punished for it.

    The real question is later, after he finishes whatever jail/house arrest/probation period, who will hire him?

    Will those that defend him here find a way to bring him onboard at their organizations?

  • by jimmyfrank (1106681) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @01:03PM (#32033992)
    Seriously, I have, against my recommendations, incompetent managers telling me to stupid things all the time. All that can be done is voicing my opinion on why it's "stupid." Often those bad decisions come back to haunt, I like to call it, "feeling the pain." But I'd personally never risk getting in that sort of trouble for a silly job.
  • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash@omnifar i o u s.org> on Thursday April 29, 2010 @01:11PM (#32034124) Homepage Journal

    I see bad behavior combined with a smug sense of self-importance causing real damage and being properly punished for it.

    Interestingly, that could describe Hans Reiser has well. I think it's the disease of our profession.

    I would be willing to hire him, though I think maybe I'd want to review the case and work history a little more before making that decision. I would just make it very clear to him that he did not have sole authority over the network and make sure that others always had access.

  • Try what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Concern (819622) * on Thursday April 29, 2010 @01:15PM (#32034176) Journal

    He's a criminal. What happened between the time he was arrested and conviction isn't that unusual as the DA refined the case, let alone in a case with some technical complexity. He deserves to be where he is, in jail.

  • by Loser4Now (1119949) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @01:18PM (#32034226)

    It's my understanding his boss's boss asked for the passwords over an intercom, with police and HR present. The boss's boss was authorized, those others, not so much.

    I think Terry fscked up. I think he should have been fired. I don't think he should have served 2 years, with the probability of 3 more plus a lifetime stain of FELON for being a paranoid system admin. And apparently I'm not the only one.

    My least favorite part about this whole trial is that they removed a guy who was going to vote not guilty. It doesn't matter why he was going to vote not guilty. They decided they didn't like his verdict, and replaced him. Talk about a fscking miscarriage of justice.

  • Re:Habeas Corpus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CraftyJack (1031736) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @01:27PM (#32034382)

    The real question should be "Who, if anyone, was harmed by...

    That can be a really tricky question for an awful lot of illegal activities, which is why the question posed to the jury is: "Was this rule broken?" Whether or not that merits jail time is a function of the legislators and the judge.

  • Re:Habeas Corpus (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @01:28PM (#32034392) Journal
    There was potential harm. Something could have happened and nobody would have been able to fix it.

    Since it was only potential harm, I don't think this does deserve a prison sentence, and I hope he doesn't suffer too great a punishment. I'd even like to see him get another job. That's partly out of sympathy for him, but he has useful skills and in an environment where they're simply more used to this personality type (most tech companies should be able to work with him), he should be a beneficial employee.
  • by Moryath (553296) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @01:54PM (#32034918)

    After reading the article, I stand by points I made in earlier discussions.

    What we have here is a travesty and not justice. We have a juror who was given faulty jury instructions, who had relevant information withheld from them. And in the end, the decision made by the jurors amounted to what it looks like from the start - a collection of people who did not know anything about what they were looking at, scared by the prosecutors saying this is "w00h scary internets stuff", and making a faulty decision and a verdict that's a mockery of the law.

    The legal system is broken.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @01:59PM (#32034986) Journal

    Finding out more of the facts, it's becoming clearer to me that Childs was trying either to get revenge or extort some sort of offer of compensation for releasing the network to its owners' control. You don't go on the lam over a misunderstanding. His behavior in the weeks before the meeting indicates it was contemplated and suggests it was planned. His actions in stalling during and after the meeting, and then his flight, prove he had intent to continue to disrupt the business of the city.

    Yesterday I was okay with the verdict and with the idea of "time served" being the extent of the punishment. Today, I'd push for the 5 years.

    What I want to know now is why did the trial take so long? And why did it have to go into technical detail? The issue wasn't technological in nature. It was a simple matter of a guy having authority, losing that authority, and refusing to give the tools of that authority back to the owners of the authority. The use of the "denial of service" charge is a bit obtuse, but was sufficient; in truth, there should be a law specifically dealing with intentional refusal to relenquish control of government property, whether it's of any use or not.

  • by StormReaver (59959) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:19PM (#32035278)

    I think a doctrine of calling inaction after authorized actions denial of service is the kind of thing that is so overbroad it could lead to all kinds of unfairness - a maintenance guy sees a leaky roof in a server room, gets transferred to another building and doesn't tell anyone about it and a week later the computers in that room get flooded, is he now criminally responsible for that denial of service?

    More accurately, a maintenance guy knows the server room roof leaks a lot and can potentially cause tremendous harm to the highly expensive contents of the room. All the roofing tools and materials are in an impenetrable locked room, and he is the only one with the keys. He knows he is going to be reassigned, is ordered by his boss to hand over the keys, and refuses. That is a denial of (roofing) service attack, and should rightfully be punishable under the law.

    If the roof subsequently leaks and destroys the equipment, then he should be held liable since he is actively preventing the roof from being serviced. That is the situation that the city faced with Terry Childs, and the city acted responsibly.

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:33PM (#32035500)

    Have you ever worked for a large company (let's say 2k+ employees)? I have, and in those environments the main reason IT and dev staff behave in the way you describe is because that's how management behaves and a lot of times it's actually safer to play along with their little power trip game than it is to use common sense.

    I've worked for several with 100k+ employees, and I know exactly what you mean. But part of playing along with their little power trip would, in Childs' case, have reasonably included handing over the passwords, if not immediately, then certainly by the time it became front page news.

    One thing I've learned about the power games in large corporations is that you do not ever try to compete with people above you in the hierarchy. It's never a fair fight, partly because the rules are designed to reinforce the hierarchy, but also because those people ended up above you at least in part because they're really, really good at playing the game.

  • by Concern (819622) * on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:50PM (#32035784) Journal

    It was pretty simple to spot that his story doesn't make sense, actually, since it involves things that obviously don't fit with the facts that you can verify.

    Here's a prior post of mine [slashdot.org] - you can judge for yourself if you think I was right to make the call.

    I want to add something here. Obviously his bosses were ignorant dickwads who ran a terrible shop and made all kinds of mistakes - not least, hiring Childs. Everyone also agrees on that. Unfortunately, Terry Childs made it all beside the point. The guy was an even bigger douchebag. He single-handedly helped and protected his shitty bosses through his dumbass actions.

    You know what would have been the classiest, slickest thing in the world? If he just gave up the passwords, quit, and started writing and speaking about his experiences with the city. He could have told stories, campaigned, embarrassed the administration, and gotten his ass up and working to affect positive political change, just the way citizens in America have been doing for hundreds of years. He would be my fucking hero.

    When your asshole boss is shitting on you, and destroying years of your blood-sweat-and-tears work, there are so many smart ways to see him off. Childs did none of them. He doesn't deserve to be anyone's hero. He deserves to be a little noted jailhouse occupant.

  • by stdarg (456557) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:55PM (#32035844)

    How does not defining it help the defense more than defining it in a way that vindicates the defense?

    If Terry Childs really thought the only person authorized to receive the information was the mayor, and his boss had no argument against that since nowhere in their reams of paperwork was "authorized" clearly defined, that seems like a point in the defense's favor.

    On the other hand, leaving it undefined means most people are going to substitute their own "reasonable" definition, which would probably consider many people (the police and the manager for instance) to be authorized.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:02PM (#32035956)

    As geeks, we're naturally willing to give Hans the benefit of the doubt because we identify with him. It takes time to read the case and realize just how screwed up the guy is.

    Huh? I don't know about you, but I didn't have to sit on the jury to realize the guy was probably guilty. Just a quick reading of an article that spelled out all the evidence found and other clues and factors in the case was enough for me. Obviously, I wouldn't rely on that for a conviction; I'd want to be on the jury and see all the testimony and evidence, not just what fits into a short article, but I don't feel I gave him any extra benefit of the doubt just because he's a programmer and a Linux geek like me.

  • Re:Habeas Corpus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by david_thornley (598059) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:03PM (#32035978)

    If I fire a few shots in your direction, and hit nothing, should I be convicted? Who, in that case, was harmed? If I drive around drunk at twice the speed limit and hit nobody, should I be liable?

    It's reasonable to consider potential harm in these cases. In this case, the city was unable to get anybody to administer its network. As it happened, the network ran satisfactorily until the Mayor got the passwords, so there was no actual harm done. It was entirely possible that something could have happened that would require an administrator with access. If Childs had successfully left the state and become unavailable, and he was apparently planning to bug out, something would have happened eventually that would have required administration, and anybody the city hired would still be locked out.

    I'm not arguing that his managers were well-meaning or competent, or the same for the prosecutors, but that isn't the issue. I'm not arguing that Childs should have done this or that specific thing. I am arguing that what he did endangered city services, and what he was planning to do was far worse.

    If you have objections to making holding a computer system hostage for unnamed ransom a crime, I suggest you write to your legislator. Don't expect me to back you up.

  • by junglebeast (1497399) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:59PM (#32036842)

    Jason Chilton's explanation of being told that he needed to determine the verdict based on letter-of-the-law interpretation is false.

    Jury nullification is the right of a juror to disagree with the constitutionality of the law, and apparently Chilton was deceived into thinking he did not have this right.

    Therefore, I think this is a mistrial.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification [wikipedia.org]

    Mention the right of a jury to "veto." If actually selected to be on a jury, you are likely to be asked to swear to find a verdict solely on the basis of the facts presented in court. Decline to swear this on the grounds that the jury has a right to find a verdict as they see fit. This right is called "jury nullification." In short, it allows a jury to return a verdict of "innocent" when the accused is clearly guilty, because the jury disagrees with the law that was broken. You probably want to read up on this before your jury duty. This is a right held by the juror and affirmed by the Supreme Court, but one that both prosecutors and judges usually deeply loathe, if they even acknowledge its existence. You will almost certainly be excused from the jury for holding unacceptable views, but if not, you will be better prepared for the experience from your research.

            * Judges who says to jurors that, "you will be required to follow and apply this law regardless of whether it seems just or not", might be asked if they would exercise this rule against Harriet Tubman (1820-1913), who violated the federal Fugitive Slave Laws by participating in the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves, or against Rosa Parks (b.1913), who was arrested in 1955 for violating the segregation laws in Montgomery, Alabama, by refusing to move to the back of the bus when the bus driver told her to give up her seat to a white passenger. If a judge bites the bullet and says that, yes, he would have to instruct juries to convict these women because the law is the law, he might be told that such blind obedience was not accepted as a defense during the War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg, when many Nazis claimed that they were just "following orders." A judge who participates in injustices because he is "following orders" might be similarly called to account.
            * The late Justice William C. Goodloe (1919-1997) of the Washington State Supreme Court, an advocate of jury nullification, suggested that the following instruction be given by judges to all juries in criminal cases: "You are instructed that this being a criminal case you are the exclusive judges of the evidence, the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given to their testimony, and you have a right also to determine the law in the case. The court does not intend to express any opinion concerning the weight of the evidence, but it is the duty of the court to advise you as to the law, and it is your duty to consider the instructions of the court; yet in your decision upon the merits of the case you have a right to determine for yourselves the law as well as the facts by which your verdict shall be governed."

  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Thursday April 29, 2010 @04:24PM (#32037186) Homepage

    The whole "taking out $10k and planning to leave the state" thing got Childs arrested, but that's not why he was tried. He was tried and convicted for refusing to provide access to the computer system to people whom he was legally required to do so. At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what his "views" were about who deserved access, there was a management chain and he choose to ignore it. It wasn't his call to make.

    I can't imagine how you get "railroaded" out of that. The jury clearly did their bit here, examining the law as written and finding that Childs violated it. That's exactly what juries are supposed to do.

    Now, we can talk about the severity of the punishment, but that's hardly unique to this case.

  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Thursday April 29, 2010 @04:34PM (#32037332) Homepage

    > He may have been an ego-maniacal dick about how he managed the systems when
    > he was authorized, but being a dick is not a criminal offense.

    He can be a dick all he wants, you're right. Refusing access to an authorized user, as it turns out, actually *is* a criminal offense.

    I'll even go a step further and say it's a good law to have. Electronic infrastructure is important and needs to be safeguarded -- you simply cannot have situations like this where some admin decides that he can hold a company or (in this case) government hostage to his whim by locking them out of their important systems, systems that are (at the end of the day) property of the entity that owns them, not the individual hired to set them up or maintain them. It doesn't matter if that person denies access actively (suspending all the other admins, for example) or passively, as in this case -- it's the same effect.

    How could you possibly reply on computers for anything otherwise?

  • by Rene S. Hollan (1943) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @08:46PM (#32039706)
    I am in the process of seeking custody of my kids, and possible pending criminal charges would have hurt my changes MUCH MORE than a disorderly conduct conviction, though both are not good: innocent until proven guilty means squat in a civil (custody) case. It was a strategic decision based on advice by counsel.

    I was out of jail on bail, and because of that they were not charging me. But, they were not willing to dismiss the charges.

    Hell yes, if it weren't for my kids, I'd be all "bring it on!" And, while you're at it, you can feed, clothe, and house me at your expense. I'll sit out the 60 days waiting for trial.

    What DID piss me off was that the public defender had stipulated to probable cause despite the fact that I had hired my own attorney (who was two minutes late to my probable cause hearing). I was tempted to assert self-representation, if only to motion for a continuance until my attorney appeared, but as about 30 of us were present for an "en masse" probable cause hearing, the judge told us to "shut up." When my attorney did show up, we did get a continuance to set bail since my address was not verified, which would mean a very high bail. We got it, but as it was Friday, I would end up spending the weekend in jail. Bail hearing was continued to Monday, at 13:00, set at 13:01, and posted at 13:02. I was released at 19:00. About 5 minutes after the continence was granted, my address verification came in, but it was too late: I'd have to wait until Monday.

    What's telling was my sentence. Usually, with no priors, on a non-violent offense and a guilty plea, the judge sets a modest fine, a sentence with credit for time served, and the rest suspended (i.e. keep out of trouble for two years). In my case, the entire sentence was suspended. Apparently, that's "code" for "hint, hint, nudge, nudge: he pled guilty only to close the case faster".

    Was I actually guilty of disorderly conduct? I think so. Without going into details, in WA, one is guilty of disorderly conduct if one acts in a manner that might cause someone to assault them. In my case, I was preventing my son, who was having a tantrum, from running into a highway, by restraining him with minimal force. Someone might think I was kidnapping him and try to intervene. His mother alleged a prior injury was caused by my restraint, and I was arrested for felony assault.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @09:02PM (#32039838) Journal
    But you wouldn't drive to another state to withdraw a bunch of cash. Or, if you are the kind of person who would, don't. :)

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