High School Hacker Ordered Back to School to Make Amends

By Melissa Morrissette

May 19, 2012 2:15pm

The subject of Tyler Coyner’s salutatorian speech to his Nevada high school classmates two years ago was how people can learn from their mistakes.  Now he will have to go back and speak on the same subject, with himself as case in point.

Coyner, who pleaded guilty to hacking into Nye County, Nev., school computers to change his own and other students’ grades, was ordered by District Judge Kimberly Wanker to give a speech about what he did and the consequences at Pahrump Valley High School as part of his punishment.

The elaborate hacking scheme involved 13 other students and a key-logging program used to steal passwords from The Nye County School District’s computer system, which were then used to change grades.

Coyner was already an honors student, but with the grades he changed  would up with a 4.54 GPA, the second highest at the school in the 2010 graduating  class.

“He is a bright kid,” his attorney Frank Cremen said. “I am not sure why he did it.”

The salutatorian speech Coyner gave, which can be seen on YouTube, was thoughtful and often humorous discussion of his plans for the future, and also included advice to his peers.

“As humans we make mistakes for a reason, to learn from them,” he said.  “Whatever happens, it’s going to be alright, so don’t panic”

He was accepted at the University of Nevada-Reno on a full scholarship and attended almost two semesters before he was arrested on campus and returned to Pahrump. After his arrest, Coyner’s scholarship was revoked, all his grades were nullified and he was ordered to repay his living costs while attending, Cremen said.

Coyner could have faced almost three years in prison on the felony charge of  unlawful use of or access to a computer, but he pleaded guilty in exchange for up to five years of supervised probation.

“If he stays out of trouble, he would be recommended for a discharge.  The probation is based on his conduct,” Cremen said. “If he does everything well, the felony will be reduced to a misdemeanor.”

Coyner’s speech at his alma mater will detail how breaking the law and making bad decisions affected his future.

He now has limited access to computers and has to get a mental health evaluation. He also has to pay more than $3,000 in restitution to the school district, perform 200 hours of community service and pay $300 to Wal-Mart for a stolen television.

Coyner now attends Great Basin College and appears to be doing better.

“He is an A student and studying math and finance,” Cremen said. “He is concentrating on school work and transferring to a four-year college.”

“He understands what the court is asking of him and he is happy to comply” Cremen said.

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