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HP 'spying' probe could end tomorrow

Pretexting scandal draws to a close

A criminal case against some of the people implicated in the HP pretexting scandal may wrap up tomorrow in a courtroom in San Jose, California.

A hearing is scheduled in Santa Clara County Superior Court in the cases against former HP legal counsel Kevin Hunsaker, private investigator Ronald DeLia and research consultant Matthew DePante.

At a hearing in March, a state judge said charges against the three defendants would be dismissed if they performed 96 hours of community service and paid restitution to the victims. At that same hearing, state charges against former HP chairman Patricia Dunn were dismissed altogether.

Dunn was chair of HP in 2006 when the board authorised an investigation to find out which directors had been leaking details of confidential board deliberations to news reporters. The private investigative firms hired by HP engaged in a practice known as pretexting, in which they pretended to be someone else to obtain phone records of other individuals. HP directors, employees and several reporters had their private phone records revealed under those false pretences.

The scandal resulted in the departure of three directors, including Dunn, from the HP board.

Dunn and the three men had been charged with fraudulent wire communications, wrongful use of computer data, identity theft and conspiracy, in a case brought by the Attorney General of California in October 2006.

The hearing on Thursday had originally been scheduled for sometime in September, but may have been moved up because the defendants met the judge's requirements for dismissal, said Carl Schulhof, a spokesman for the Superior Court.

State charges were dropped against a fifth defendant in the case, Bryan Wagner, after he pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy and one count of aggravated identity theft. He was a contractor who engaged in pretexting to gain access to phone records. Wagner's sentencing on the federal charges was postponed to October, his attorney Stephen Naratil, said on Tuesday.

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