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San Francisco Just As Guilty In Terry Childs Case 330

Posted by Soulskill
from the does-it-get-4-years-too dept.
snydeq writes "Deep End's Paul Venezia follows up on the Terry Childs sentencing, stating that the City of San Francisco is as much at fault in this case as Childs is. 'The way that the San Francisco IT department has been run is nothing short of abysmal, and that has been pointed out time and again by anyone paying attention to this case,' Venezia writes. 'Plenty of dirty laundry was aired out in court as well, yet through it all, the city has had a full-court press on Childs, and being both the plaintiff and the prosecution it spared no expense to drill Childs into the ground.' Worse, perhaps, is the disproportion of the sentence, when compared with recent convictions for intended malfeasance on the part of several notable rogue IT admins."
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San Francisco Just As Guilty In Terry Childs Case

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  • A better link (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:48PM (#33267270) Homepage Journal

    "Printable version". [infoworld.com] TFS's link is to a two page version with six paragraphs per page.

    Worse offenders -- even murderers -- get less jail time than Childs
    Consider then, the case of Steven Barnes, the former IT manager for Blue Falcon Networks in San Mateo, Calif. Barnes was convicted of sabotaging Blue Falcon's IT infrastructure in 2008 [4], receiving a sentence of one year and one day in prison and $54,000 in restitution to the company. While Childs' actions caused no disruptions, Barnes deleted all company email, caused the email servers to spew out spam, and intentionally crippled at least some servers, rendering them inoperable. He received a much lighter sentence than Childs -- and in the same court district.

  • "rogue IT admins" - I find that phrase humorous for reasons I cannot explain.
  • by koh (124962) on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:50PM (#33267292) Journal

    Frisco's policy in this case is: "Punish what you can't understand".

    • by jgagnon (1663075)

      The S&M capital of the world?

  • by Haffner (1349071) on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:52PM (#33267320)
    Every time I read something positive pertaining to the American justice system I seem to be two years older than the last time. How does he possibly deserve four years in prison for this?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I would guess it involves political influence and personal pride, both pushing up the sentence because someone's feelings and "good name" were hurt by his actions.'

      AKA Childs made the Mayor upset and look bad, end of story. Politics is never "fair or balanced" and it sure doesn't follow rules.

  • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:52PM (#33267326)

    You can skip reading TFA; all of it that's relevant to the headline is in the article summary.

    Most of the article is pointing out other people who did worse things and got lighter sentences. Frankly, I think that's a useless argument; for any crime, you can just about always find someone who committed a greater crime and received a lesser sentence. So what?

    I think there's a lot of an interesting dialogue to be had about the Terry Childs case, but this particular article doesn't add anything to that discussion.

    • by Haffner (1349071)
      I think the best observation I have seen regarding this case was made in the last discussion thread: Link [slashdot.org]
    • by sjames (1099)

      Frankly, I think that's a useless argument; for any crime, you can just about always find someone who committed a greater crime and received a lesser sentence. So what?

      So it starts to mean something when the prosecution has a vested interest and EVERYONE else who committed a greater crime of the same nature got a lesser sentence in the very same court.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      The only thing I can really get behind in the article is the fact that Childs was in jail for two years before his trial began. That sounds very much like a violation of his right to a speedy trial to me.

      The rest, though, is pointless rambling about the nature of the legal system (even though he doesn't frame it that way, that's the heart of his problem).

      He mentions a murder case where the murderer received a 1 year sentence. However, nobody has ever been convicted of murder and gotten a 1 year sentence.

      • by nomadic (141991)
        The only thing I can really get behind in the article is the fact that Childs was in jail for two years before his trial began. That sounds very much like a violation of his right to a speedy trial to me.

        Childs undoubtedly waived his right to a speedy trial, like many, many criminal defendants do (and like Kevin Mitnick did, on multiple occasions, all the while dishonestly claiming that he was being denied his right to a speedy trial).
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by russotto (537200)

          Childs undoubtedly waived his right to a speedy trial, like many, many criminal defendants do (and like Kevin Mitnick did, on multiple occasions, all the while dishonestly claiming that he was being denied his right to a speedy trial).

          Game's rigged. If you don't waive your right to a speedy trial, the prosecution will ensure you don't get the information you need to defend yourself until it's too late.

    • So What???? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mangu (126918) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:46PM (#33267968)

      for any crime, you can just about always find someone who committed a greater crime and received a lesser sentence. So what?

      What do you mean "so what"?

      First there's the question of precedent [wikipedia.org].

      Second there's the question of just punishment [usconstitution.net]

  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:57PM (#33267370) Homepage Journal
    Sure, the SF IT department may be getting managed into the ground. Sure, maybe the city is as much to blame for everything as Childs is. But none of that matters now, does it? Nobody is going to file a case against SF city. Nobody is going to punish the SF IT department. Nah, the city will get to walk away scott free, continuing to practice poor procedures. All the wild, Childs has to live with his sentence as a convenient scapegoat. This case just serves a little more proof the the justice system, on all levels in this country (at least if you live in California) is completely FUBAR.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:46PM (#33267972)

      While the city may have a shitty IT setup, is that illegal? Probably not. However what Childs did WAS illegal.

      That is the difference. I know that some geek types seem to think the law should be whatever strikes them personally as fair but that isn't how it works. Childs broke the law, he was tried and convicted of it (and one of his jurors had a CCIE so none of this "stupid jury" bullshit).

      If the city is being negligent then a lawsuit can, and should, be brought against them. None of that makes what Childs did right or legal.

      Please, please would all Slashdot posters go and READ UP ON THE CASE before posting. The facts please, not the opinions form mother Slashdotters. So much uninformed kneejerk here. Slashdot itself had some good links, including one to an interview with aforementioned CCIE juror. How are you any better than the people you like to look down upon if you cannot be bothered to get your facts straight for something you have strong emotions about?

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:59PM (#33267390)

    Plenty of dirty laundry was aired out in court as well, yet through it all, the city has had a full-court press on Childs, and being both the plaintiff and the prosecution it spared no expense to drill Childs into the ground.

    It's good to be the king.

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:00PM (#33267404) Journal

    Wow, a nuanced view of the problems.

    Before this post gets modded as a troll or flamebait, it is my humble and sincere view as someone born and raised outside the USA, that Americans are often obsessed by finding a single cause for a problem and the idea that there might be multiple causes is rarely explored.

    • by Yaa 101 (664725) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:06PM (#33267458) Journal

      The problem lies in that most US people seem to equal justice with revenge.

      • by SoupGuru (723634)
        QED
      • by BcNexus (826974)

        The problem lies in that most US people seem to equal justice with revenge.

        Oh great. Another example of us not understanding equals! [slashdot.org]

      • by bussdriver (620565) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:18PM (#33268316)

        Furthermore, justice AND revenge both do not mandate prison and/or being subject to physical or sexual abuse. There are many things that can be done in BOTH cases besides the obvious one. Prisons cost too much money and have too much lobbying pressure to maintain or grow the punishment/revenge system we have today.

        Having pedophile tattooed on your forehead should be enough...

        Terry Childs is going to have career problems for life, no need to waste money holding him in a cage as if he was a wild animal threatening the peace - or even put an invisible fence around his house is not worth it.

    • by eleuthero (812560) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:09PM (#33267486)

      ...that Americans are often obsessed by finding a single cause for a problem and the idea that there might be multiple causes is rarely explored.

      I would suggest it isn't so much an "American" trait as it is a convenient news tactic in America. People naturally want answers to questions. The neater and tighter the answer, the more readily it is accepted by the masses, which, of course, means that the news makes more money because they are more trusted. Simplicity is a hallmark of human (not just American) thinking - this takes different forms in different cultures. The main Western logical process is distinct from Eastern varieties but simplicity within the given culture is the tendency. Looking at modern history books covering the Renaissance and comparing them with 19th century history books of the same, we have a much broader viewpoint than those writing in the 1800s had. This is in part due to different access to resources, but in part due to the development of thought over time away from the natural reaction: Simplicity.

      Now, with all that said, this is only... one facet of the change in thought patterns over the past century.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Abstrackt (609015)
      Most Americans I've met are actually very rational people who are willing to consider others' viewpoints. It's not until you get into the court and political systems that things start to fall apart.
    • I'm not against a nuanced view of a problem, but I don't think this article actually is that.

      It's more like the equivalent of grounding your kid for two weeks for shoplifting and having to hear about how all his friends got punished less for stealing bigger things. It's more a misdirection than a thoughtful examination of the issue at hand.

      That's not to say that I'm advocating for what happens to Childs as fair/appropriate, incidentally -- only that I think this article makes a very weak argument against i

    • by Grygus (1143095) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:45PM (#33267962)

      You mean kind of like how a lot of non-Americans like to find the property of "being an American" as somehow intrinsically to blame in so many situations?

      All people need to simplify. You will never understand everything, so you research carefully the things that interest you, and everything else needs to be ignored or fit into a bite-sized piece of intellectualism that you don't need to give any thought to. Nationality has nothing to do with it.

  • We may not be able to bring any sense of "justice" to this act, but there should never be another computer-related event in San Francisco, and anyone with any sense of what really happened to Childs (regardless of his own aggravation of the incident) should also boycott the city.

    The slightly smaller number of tourist and convention dollars will take decades to balance the scales, but it's worth a try.

  • So here's a question. If people are concerned about the magnitude of the sentence, what's the REAL problem? Some people say "others got light sentences so he should too"... I would ask "is the real problem that others' sentences were too light and this is the first time the punishment fit the crime?"

    Now, whether Childs is actually guilty of a crime is another matter. I wasn't in the jury; neither was anyone else here. We don't have all the facts, and the facts we ARE seeing are carefully picked by people

    • Re:Heavy sentence? (Score:4, Informative)

      by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki.cox@net> on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:20PM (#33267648)

      That's actually not true.

      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1633482&cid=32008096 [slashdot.org]

      one of us actually was on that jury

    • by Haffner (1349071)

      What it all comes down to is intention. If he intended something malicious, the sentence is entirely appropriate. If he did not, he should not serve any prison at all. There's really not a lot of room for gray areas here.

      Incorrect. You are talking about two separate crimes here: a crime that occurred, and a crime that may or may not have been intended to occur, but did not. The former he should be tried for, and convicted of, and punished appropriately. The latter is conspiracy to commit a different crime - conspiracy is a criminal charge, which he could be tried and punished for. This is what keeps punishments appropriate for crimes; if I try to burn down your house but only succeed in breaking into your garage, I deserve

  • Why the sympathy?? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bhartman34 (886109)
    Lots of people have to work under supervisors who are total idiots. That doesn't give anyone the right to sabotage their supervisor or their company. What he did was basically blackmail: "Let me talk ot the mayor or I'll keep you locked out of your network." You can't let the guy off easy just because he happened to be harmless. Next time, you might not be so lucky.
    • Lots of people have to work under supervisors who are total idiots. That doesn't give anyone the right to sabotage their supervisor or their company. What he did was basically blackmail: "Let me talk ot the mayor or I'll keep you locked out of your network." You can't let the guy off easy just because he happened to be harmless. Next time, you might not be so lucky.

      True, but at the same time there's no need to throw him jail now, is there?

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:41PM (#33267902)

      Because we have more than a couple of Terry Childs like people on Slashdot. You may notice that there are a fair number of posters here who are quite anti-social, and anti-authority. You also many notice that they think their technical skill makes them much smarter than everyone else. This tends to lead to a mentality of "My boss is an idiot and I should be the only one who makes any decisions on the computers." Maybe they've even forced that in their work. So they are sympathetic because it is the kind of thing they either want to do or have done, and they are worried that they might get in trouble.

      Basically they are like him, and thus that makes them feel that his actions were correct.

  • Run Away! (Score:4, Informative)

    by jasenj1 (575309) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:09PM (#33267482)

    FTA: "When faced with dangerously incompetent management, it's best to just look for another job."

    I found this a very telling statement. If your management are bozos, don't try to change them or point out their bozo-ness. Just pack up and move on. They hold all the cards. You will be punished for trying to fix anything that makes them look bad.

    How very sad and defeatist.

    - Jasen.

    • I found this a very telling statement. If your management are bozos, don't try to change them or point out their bozo-ness. Just pack up and move on. They hold all the cards. You will be punished for trying to fix anything that makes them look bad.

      The question I'd put to you in response is: have you ever had a job where your managers were not only bozos, but the kind of bozos who would attempt to blame you when things inevitably went wrong?

      I have, and you know? I can play that office-political game well e

    • by BobMcD (601576)

      FTA: "When faced with dangerously incompetent management, it's best to just look for another job."

      I found this a very telling statement. If your management are bozos, don't try to change them or point out their bozo-ness. Just pack up and move on. They hold all the cards. You will be punished for trying to fix anything that makes them look bad.

      How very sad and defeatist.

      - Jasen.

      Very sad, very defeatist, and usually, very, very true.

      Making the point, winning the battle, etc, will all cause you to lose the war. People in positions of power tend to enjoy appearing as though they deserve to be there. Demonstrate the opposite and watch your life become more difficult.

      Back to Childs, well, unfortunately he chose the high road. Civil disobedience carries a punitive cost, and it seems he'll be paying a while longer. The rest of us elect instead self-preservation, whether that be to fe

    • Re:Run Away! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hibiki_r (649814) on Monday August 16, 2010 @06:17PM (#33269074)

      I've seen many people fight and lose in that situation. It was never pretty, and it didn't work.

      However, after the 5-10-15th person leaves a department and tell HR that disagreements with management was their reason to leave, Someone might do something about it. I just saw it happen a few months ago. People were even refusing headhunter calls alleging that their network claimed that the work environment was unacceptable.

      If the next level of management fails to realize the problem after most positions becomes revolving doors, they'll go under anyway.

  • by idontgno (624372) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:12PM (#33267536) Journal

    Well, guess what. No matter how much you may think it, generalized poor management is not actually a criminal offense. Whereas, denial of service is.

    Justice is not about fairness. It's "did you break the law, and if so what's the stated punishment?"

    Was the ordinance used to convict him fair and reasonably applied? The only opinion that matters is the jury's, and they thought it so.

    IMHO, Childs may have started out with the best of intentions in his "stand", but it escalated into a pissing match. And you really can't out-piss senior municipal managers and politicians, so you can indict Childs for picking a losing fight.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Justice is not about fairness. It's "did you break the law, and if so what's the stated punishment?"

      No. That isn't justice. Justice IS about fairness. Justice comes first, and laws are supposed to support justice.

      If all you have is a set of laws and the stated punishment for breaking them, all you have is the worst kind of bureaucracy. Assuming that laws are always right is one of the worst things you can do.

      Typically, laws are not based of facts or rational arguments. They are based on which direction the politics of the day is blowing.

      Laws are written by lawyers and lobbyists for benefit the few and pow

  • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:15PM (#33267576) Journal

    The Economist ripped the US a new one [economist.com] last week for locking up too many people, many of them non violent offences. It wasn't so long ago that people were hanged for stealing a loaf of bread, but we backed off from excess punishment (probably a little too far in some cases). But the United States the trend seems to be regressing thanks to grandstanding politicians and bloodthirsty voters who won't countenance even the slightest hint of being "soft on crime". With the way things are going, I truly think that the US will soon bring back public executions before long and will be indistinguishable from countries like Iran in how they deal with crime.

    • by PCM2 (4486) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:50PM (#33268740) Homepage

      But the United States the trend seems to be regressing thanks to grandstanding politicians and bloodthirsty voters who won't countenance even the slightest hint of being "soft on crime".

      That's not even the end of the story. Don't forget that a growing number of prisons in the United States are being privatized. There have already been cases of judges who have been convicted for imposing harsh sentences without appropriate judicial review, because they were accepting kick-backs from the prison industrial complex.

  • by bl8n8r (649187) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:56PM (#33268074)

    The dude wouldn't turn over passwords when ordered by his Senior Associate. That's just insubordinate in any circumstance, regardless of the job, and will get your ass fired in most places. Terry could have handled things differently if he didn't trust his immediate supervisor, but he didn't. He chose to lie all the way up the food chain and took the for-the-good-of-the-network chip on his shoulder with him.

  • by gig (78408) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:58PM (#33268092)

    What's he going to do, get another IT job and offend again? They should have given him community service. The guy's career has already been wrecked.

    We are way too much about jail in California and the US. You shouldn't go to jail unless you are violent, or an incorrigible repeat offender. California is bankrupting itself putting taxpayers in jail for crimes like these and for smoking, it is fucking crazy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:54PM (#33268824)

    Plenty of dirty laundry was aired out in court as well, yet through it all, the city has had a full-court press on Childs, and being both the plaintiff and the prosecution it spared no expense to drill Childs into the ground.

    Wow, that metaphor is more confused than an eel at a hovercraft convention. The word on the street is that Infoworld editors are sharper than tacks, but when the rubber hits the road it seems the prose flies like a banana.

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