[JURIST] A California state judge on Wednesday dropped the felony charges [felony complaint, PDF; JURIST report] against four defendants in the Hewlett-Packard (HP) pretexting scandal [JURIST news archive] after the defendants pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of fraudulent wire communications and agreed to complete 96 hours of community service and pay restitution by September. The four defendants, including former HP CEO Patricia Dunn [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive], could still be prosecuted by the federal government, but no federal charges have yet been brought. AP has more.
Along with Dunn, former HP ethics director Kevin Hunsaker and private investigators Ronald DeLia, Joseph DePante and Bryan Wagner were charged with using false or fraudulent pretenses to obtain confidential information from a public utility, unauthorized access to computer data, identity theft, and conspiracy. All of the charges stem from their roles in the illegal information gathering scandal that broke last month when HP admitted in an SEC filing [text] that it had been investigating boardroom leaks using pretexting [Federal Trade Commission backgrounder], a fraudulent investigative technique where the investigators impersonated board members, employees and reporters to uncover who was leaking confidential information from board meetings. HP announced Dunn's resignation [press release] from its board on September 22. Dunn and Hunsaker pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the felony charges in November. A fifth defendant, private investigator Bryan Wagner, pleaded guilty to the charges and agreed to assist federal investigators with their case.