Network engineer Terry Childs found guilty of network tampering 

A city employee who hoarded the pass code of a major San Francisco computer network was found guilty Tuesday of blocking city officials from access.

Terry Childs, 45, commandeered The City’s FiberWAN network in July 2008 after his managers began investigating his strange behavior at work. After five years of working with The City, Childs had gained a reputation for his technical knowledge.

He would soon withhold that knowledge from his co-workers and superiors in an effort to protect the infrastructure from “something really bad.”

In the five-month trial, Childs was found guilty of one felony count of computer network tampering with an enhancement alleging the loss of more than $200,000, charges that could net a maximum five-year sentence. Before the trial, a judge dismissed three other felonies that related to his alleged installation of foreign modems at network sites throughout San Francisco.

Childs already has served 21 months in San Francisco County Jail and could possibly be released soon after sentencing June 14.

The case drew national attention because Mayor Gavin Newsom was the only person to whom Childs would release the passwords. The mayor made a jailhouse visit to finally extract the sensitive information from Childs, saying he had “grave concerns” that the computer network would be hacked or destroyed.

Jurors deliberated for less than three days before handing down the verdict. Several said they were sympathetic to Childs and that The City’s Department of Technology should have done a better job of managing the situation, but yet he clearly broke the law.

“I don’t think we wanted to come up with this verdict, but we had to follow the law,” juror Jason Chilton said.

While Childs defended himself by saying he was protecting the system from an incompetent city government, another juror said that was a bad excuse.

“The desire to protect a system doesn’t justify his actions,” juror Amy Heine said.

Childs’ attorney, Richard Shikman, said his client did not deserve to be prosecuted to such an extent.

“Crimes are acts of moral turpitude, where there’s an element of venality to criminal behavior,” he said. “I just didn’t see it in this case.”


Trial details

Terry Childs was found guilty Tuesday of withholding pass codes to The City’s FiberWAN network.

5 Years Terry Childs worked for Department of Technology

5 Months trial lasted

3 Days jury deliberated

$900,000 Minimum costs attributed to fixing network

21 Months Childs has been in County Jail

60 Percent of city services affected by network

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Brent Begin

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