San Francisco's Rogue IT Guy on Trial

Terry Childs finally gets his day in court

By Jackson West
|  Tuesday, Dec 15, 2009  |  Updated 2:45 PM PDT
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San Francisco's Rogue IT Guy on Trial

Cindy Chew / AP

Terry Childs is accused of shutting off access to San Francisco's city data network because he was worried about getting laid off.

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Pittsburg, Calif. resident Terry Childs has been held in jail on $5 million bail since last year, but finally got his day in court yesterday.

Childs, 45, stands accused of felony denial of computer access after an incident last year that left San Francisco City Government unable to use the new computer network which Childs helped install.

City officials couldn't get access to police and payroll records, among other data, for a total of twelve days -- until Childs divulged system passwords directly to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in a jailhouse interview.

According to prosecutors, Childs was angry about possibly getting laid off and concerns about his level of access after officials learned that he'd been convicted in an earlier robbery.

The defense argued that Childs was simply doing his job by not providing system passwords to his boss over the phone, which Childs felt was insecure.

The network was so complex that it took weeks for new contractors hired by the city to figure it all out, and rumors at the time suggested that Childs had built himself hidden "back doors" into the system.

Expected to last up to two months, and the technical lingo is already boring jurors. Newsom, however, is expected to grace the courtroom with his toothy smile, so that's something.

Jackson West would love to cover this trial in person, but alas, there's no budget for such things.

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