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State files charges in HP private investigation case

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NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   CALIFORNIA   ·   Privacy   ·   Oct. 5, 2006

NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   CALIFORNIA   ·   Privacy   ·   Oct. 5, 2006

State files charges in HP private investigation case

  • Former HP chairwoman and four others have been charged with four felonies in the private investigation scandal that included obtaining journalists’ phone records.

Oct. 5, 2006  ·   California Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed state criminal charges against five people on Wednesday in the Hewlett-Packard Co. private investigation case, in which company investigators used a ruse to obtain phone records of journalists.

The complaint states that investigators hired by HP used a method called “pretexting” — calling a company and impersonating someone — to obtain phone records of journalists and board members.

Named in the complaint are reporters Pui-Wing Tam of The Wall Street Journal and Dawn Kawamoto, Tom Krazit and Stephen Shankland of CNET, along with Shankland’s father, Thomas.

According to supporting documents, investigators also accessed the records of journalists John Markoff of The New York Times; George Anders of the Journal; Peter Burrows, Ben Elgin and Roger Crockett of Business Week; and Rachel Konrad of The Associated Press, who is also Shankland’s wife. Records for Kawamoto’s husband were also obtained, the report states.

Those charged Wednesday were former HP chairwoman Patricia Dunn, former in-house HP lawyer Kevin T. Hunsaker, and three contract private investigators involved in the probe — Matthew Depante and Bryan C. Wagner of Action Research Group, and Ronald R. DeLia of Security Outsourcing Solutions.

Yesterday’s complaint against the five defendants charged each with fraudulent wire communications, wrongful use of computer data, identity theft, and conspiracy to commit those crimes.

Although Dunn previously denied any knowledge of wrongdoing, the complaint alleges she knew about and facilitated the illegal aspects of the private investigations. Dunn resigned as chairwoman shortly after the illegal investigation tactics came to light.

There is an ongoing federal investigation into the matter, and a House panel held hearings last month on the scandal.

It is unclear at this point to what extent the journalists will be involved in the state prosecution, or what effect California’s shield law might have on their involvement with the case.

(California v. Dunn)ES

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