SF computer network tampering case stalls

January 13, 2009 1:22:33 PM PST
The attorney for a San Francisco city worker accused of tampering with the city's main computer network said Tuesday he plans to file a legal challenge to the language of the charges against his client.

Terry Childs, 44, a San Francisco Department of Technology network engineer, remains in custody on four felony counts of computer network tampering, as well as one count of causing losses of more than $200,000, resulting from the tampering.

Childs, of Pittsburg, appeared briefly in San Francisco Superior Court this morning to be arraigned on the charges, after a judge ruled on Dec. 24 there was sufficient evidence for him to stand trial.

However, arraignment was postponed when Judge Charles Haines granted a request from Childs' attorney Richard Shikman to delay entering a plea and setting a trial date while Shikman filed a demurrer on the charges.

Shikman said outside the courtroom that he plans to challenge the wording of the charges, which he said were "vague," gave "inadequate notice," and failed to specify the exact nature of the alleged violations.

"This is a very serious challenge as to the charges," Shikman said.

Shikman's demurrer will be heard on Feb. 11.

Childs was arrested and charged in July, and remains in San Francisco County Jail on $5 million bail.

He could face up to seven years in prison if convicted, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors have alleged that Childs rigged the city's FiberWAN network, which handles most of the city's computer traffic, with his own passwords, denied access to other network administrators, and had installed devices on the system that could have caused a full system failure if power were to be shut down.

The city was eventually able to regain control of the network when Childs gave up the passwords from his jail cell. The cost of repairing system has been estimated at up to $1 million.

Shikman has said Childs, who had been in charge of implementing the FiberWAN network, never intended to harm the system but may have not followed department protocol.