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Charges dismissed in HP case

Defendants' conduct betrayed trust but was not criminal, judge says.

June 29, 2007|From the Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A Santa Clara County judge dismissed the remaining charges against three defendants in the Hewlett-Packard Co. boardroom spying case Thursday, saying that their conduct was a "betrayal of trust and honor" but that it did not rise to the level of criminal activity.

Superior Court Judge Ray E. Cunningham followed through on a deal reached in March to drop reduced fraud charges if the defendants -- former HP ethics chief Kevin Hunsaker and private investigators Ronald DeLia and Matthew DePante -- each completed 96 hours of community service.

The move ended the state's role in a case that ensnared some of the top executives at the venerable HP, now the world's largest technology company by revenue.

A federal investigation is continuing.

Hunsaker and the two private investigators, who had pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of fraudulent wire communications, were accused of illegally obtaining the phone logs of directors, journalists and HP employees in an effort to identify board members who were leaking confidential information to the media.

In tossing the misdemeanor charges, Cunningham praised the California attorney general's office for its investigation of HP's ill-fated effort to root out the source of boardroom leaks but said the defendants' actions were not criminal at the time they occurred.

The judge said the investigation nevertheless "achieved much public good," including helping spur the passage of state and federal legislation specifically outlawing "pretexting," or pretending to be someone else to secretly secure copies of their private telephone logs.

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