State charges dropped in HP spy case

A state judge in California on Thursday dismissed charges against the three remaining state criminal defendants in the Hewlett-Packard Co. spying case.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Ray Cunningham dropped charges against former HP attorney Kevin Hunsaker and private investigators Ron DeLia and Matthew DePante.

The charges were dropped for their part in the use of false pretenses to obtain phone records of individuals they were investigating for leaking HP board deliberations to news media.

Cunningham agreed to the dismissal after each of the defendants performed at least 96 hours of community service. In fact, each of them did more than required.

"At worst, the conduct in this case amounted to boardroom politics and a betrayal of trust rather than criminal activity," Cunningham said from the bench in his courtroom in San Jose, California.

None of the defendants were in the courtroom but were represented by their attorneys. Deputy State Attorney General Ralph Sivilla said the state agreed to the dismissal.

At a hearing in March, Cunningham dismissed all charges against former HP chairman Patricia Dunn and said he would dismiss the charges against the other three if they performed community service.

The scandal "has achieved much public good," Cunningham said, in that it has brought attention to the problem of "pretexting," or using false pretenses to access private records. It has resulted in the passage of state and federal laws specifically banning the practice. Also, HP agreed to a $14.5 million civil case settlement with the State of California in December 2006 that will support a state program focused on privacy protection.

Bryan Wagner still faces sentencing in federal court in San Jose on one count of conspiracy and one count of aggravated identity theft. He pleaded guilty to those charges in January.

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