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Dunn, four others charged in HP scandal

By Robert Mullins, IDG News Service
October 04, 2006 05:56 PM ET

IDG News Service - Ousted HP Chairman Patricia Dunn, a former company lawyer, and three outside investigators were charged Wednesday in California on felony charges related to the conduct of an investigation to track down news leaks from the HP board that allegedly broke state law.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office said charges have also been filed against Kevin Hunsaker, a former senior lawyer at HP; Ronald L. DeLia, a Boston-area private detective; Matthew DePante, manager of Action Research Group, a Melbourne, Fla., information broker; and Bryan Wagner, a Littleton, Colo., man who is said to have obtained private phone records while working for Action Research. The charges were announced at a press conference held Wednesday at the California Department of Justice.

The charges include using false or fraudulent pretenses to obtain confidential information from a public utility, wrongful use of computer data, identity theft, and conspiracy to commit each of those crimes. All of the charges are felonies.

"One of our state's most venerable corporate institutions lost its way as its board sought to find out who leaked confidential information to the press," said Lockyer in a statement, released Wednesday. "In this misguided effort, people inside and outside of HP violated privacy rights and broke state law."

Lockyer's office has been investigating the spying allegations because HP is based in Palo Alto, Calif. The charges were filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court. The U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco and the FBI have been conducting separate investigations of HP.

In a statement released after the filing, Dunn's attorney, James Brosnahan, said his client will fight the charges.

"These charges are being brought against the wrong person at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons. They are the culmination of a well-financed and highly orchestrated disinformation campaign," Brosnahan said. He did not elaborate on his charge of a disinformation campaign.

"As her many supporters fully expect, she will fight these charges with everything she has,” he said.

In a statement released Wednesday in advance of the Sacramento press conference, HP said it was continuing to cooperate with state and federal investigators.

The private investigators hired by HP allegedly used "pretexting," pretending to be someone they are not, to obtain the telephone records of HP directors, other employees and journalists who cover the company in an attempt to find out who from the board provided information to the reporters.

The scandal has attracted the attention of Congress. On Sept. 28, Dunn told the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that she believed employees and lawyers who said that the HP's leak investigation complied with the company's standards of conduct.

The subcommittee was holding hearings into the use of pretexting. The committee passed a federal ban on pretexting but the Congress adjourned before the full House or the Senate voted on the legislation.

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