http://www.newsbytes.com/news/02/173751.html By Steven Bonisteel, Newsbytes DECATUR, GEORGIA, U.S.A., 17 Jan 2002, 5:05 PM CST A computer technician at Georgia-run college who found himself facing criminal charges after installing software for a volunteer distributed-computing effort will face probation instead of prison. David McOwen, once a systems administrator at DeKalb Technical College, faces a year of probation and a $2,100 fine for connecting a number of DeKalb computers to Distributed.net so that the spare computing cycles could assist in a communal code-breaking challenge. But McOwen's supporters, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), said today that an agreement reached with state prosecutors was far better than the worst-case scenario: years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and restitution. "David never should have been prosecuted in the first place, but we're glad that the state decided to stop," said Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at the EFF. "He very likely could have won if the case had gone to trial, but trials cost money and you never know what will happen." Tien said McOwen, who was to face a criminal trial later this month, will also have to perform 80 hours of community service "unrelated to computers or technology." However McOwen will not end up with a felony or misdemeanor record under Georgia's First Offender Act. The criminal charges stunned many participants in distributed-computing efforts, who frequently are also denizens of university or college computing departments. In early January 2000, when the San Diego Supercomputer Center of the University of California was issuing press releases about its number-crunching prowess via Distributed.net in an RC5-64 code-breaking challenge, DeKalb was suspending McOwen for participating in the same event. A suspension wasn't all McOwen faced. This spring, long after he had resigned from DeKalb in the wake of the suspension, McOwen learned that he was being investigated by the state attorney general's office as a result of his Distributed.net participation. This fall, he was officially charged one count of computer theft and seven counts of computer trespassing. Tien in a prepared statement said that the dispute centered on a on whether McOwen had fair notice that the distributed-computing software was prohibited at DeKalb. "From what I can tell, the state would have had a hard time proving beyond a reasonable doubt that David knew he wasn't authorized to install the software," Tien said. "I can't help but feel that this was a face-saving deal for the state." Originally, the state had calculated that McOwen had drained hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of DeKalb computing time since installing the software early in 1999, arriving at its figure by calculating that the software sapped 59 cents worth of bandwidth each second. A pro-McOwen site is at http://www.freemcowen.com - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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