[ISN] Two Sue GMU for $4.5 Million (wrongfully accused of hacking)

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Wed Aug 19 1998 - 16:33:56 PDT

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    Two Sue GMU for $4.5 Million
    Men Say They Were Falsely Accused in Computer Hacking
    By Erica Beshears
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, August 19, 1998; Page B05
    An alumnus and a current student who say they were falsely accused of
    hacking into the computer system at George Mason University have filed a
    $4.5 million lawsuit against the school for defamation of character and
    false imprisonment. 
    An attorney for Robert Shvern, 24, of Fairfax County, and Ryan Whelan, 25,
    of Centreville, said the two men suffered great embarrassment and damage
    to their reputations and lost jobs and money as a result of charges filed
    against them last summer, which were later dropped. 
    Shvern, who graduated with a degree in computer science in 1996, and
    Whelan, a student since 1991, filed the lawsuit in Fairfax County Circuit
    Court on Aug. 5, naming the university and eight of its officials as
    defendants. The suit claims the university violated their civil rights and
    acted without probable cause when it investigated them. 
    "The plaintiffs believe the prosecution was instigated out of malice and
    without a legal and factual basis and that they suffered damages as a
    result of it," said Chanda L. Kinsey, attorney for Shvern and Whelan. 
    Kinsey said an employer withdrew a job offer to Shvern after reading
    accounts of the charges in newspapers, forcing Shvern to accept a job with
    less pay. Whelan owns a computer business called Two Radical Technologies,
    which also is a plaintiff in the suit.  Kinsey said Whelan lost several
    clients after the charges were filed. 
    The lawsuit states that the university used an unproven computer audit
    system to identify the culprit in a February 1997 hacking incident, and
    that the audit was carried out by a university official -- Donald
    Desrosiers -- who had a personal dispute with Shvern. 
    Shvern and Whelan also allege that the university police department
    arrested them without probable cause, knowing that the audit would not
    stand up in court. 
    University officials said they would not comment on pending legal action. 
    Between February and August of last year, George Mason University suffered
    12 computer break-ins by hackers. 
    In the first incident, hackers inserted a program into the school's
    computer system that sent derogatory e-mail messages about the chairman of
    the Computer Science Department and the school's Security Review Panel to
    administrative committees under the names of random students and staff
    members. Another break-in last summer deleted academic work for 400
    computer and engineering students. 
    Shvern and Whelan were arrested in July 1997 in connection with the first
    incident. Shvern was charged with altering computer data, a felony; with
    willfully using a computer network without authority; and with causing a
    computer to malfunction. Whelan was charged with being an accessory to the
    The lawsuit claims that university officials in their public statements
    intended to falsely incriminate Shvern and Whelan in the incident that
    deleted students' academic work. 
    Charges against Shvern were dismissed at a preliminary hearing in March
    when a judge ruled that the evidence was insufficient to refer the case to
    a grand jury.  Whelan's charge was dropped a month later. 
    No one else has been charged in connection with any of the hacking
    incidents, officials said. 
    George Mason University has worked since last year to bolster security of
    its computer system by creating a committee to develop new policies,
    spokesman Dan Walsch said. 
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