Terry Childs entered a not guilty plea Thursday with the help of his new court-appointed private lawyer. His public defender was replaced because of a conflict of interest.
The computer network Childs is accused of tampering with is the same one used by the public defender's office and includes their payroll.
His new lawyer, Erin Crane, says Childs is a well-respected engineer who built the city's network. She says the charges against him stem from a misunderstanding.
"And I think as the case unfolds you'll see that he is not the bad actor in this situation," says Crane.
Crane says Childs has been willing to hand over the passwords that would resolve the problem since Tuesday.
"We're in the process of negotiating the turnover of those passwords," says Crane.
But the district attorney says that negotiation does not mean a plea deal. He remains in jail on $5 million bail.
"At this point a conversation about a plea has not really taken place. I'm sure that at some point that conversation will be desired and we'll take it one step at a time," says San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris.
The DA says Childs gave himself unlimited access to the city's network while locking out others. The system handles everything from payroll to law enforcement records.
"If you don't have authority to access this, you can't do it and if you do, it's a crime. You don't have the authority to deny access and if you do, it's a crime," says Harris.
ABC7 News I.T. Manager Rosendo Pena says it's no surprise it's taking so long to crack Childs' password.
"If you just typed 10 characters, all lowercase characters, and had a computer try to hack at that password trying 10 million versions a second, it could take six months for that to get cracked," says Pena.
Childs' next court date is July 23rd for a bail hearing.