State To Dismiss Charges Against One In HP Pretexting Scandal

Jan 26, 2007 (08:01 PM EST)

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Charges against one person implicated in Hewlett-Packard's pretexting scandal could be dropped as early as Monday, according to a spokesperson with California Attorney General's office.

Bryan Wagner and four others working on behalf of HP were charged by the state with breaking the law by improperly obtaining and exchanging personal information.

On Friday, Attorney General Jerry Brown's office said it was willing to drop its case against Wagner because he has already pleaded guilty in a federal court. The matter will go before a judge Monday.

Wagner worked as a subcontractor and has admitted to that he created a fake e-mail account to access detailed phone bills and later destroyed his computers when the investigatory tactics surfaced in public documents and congressional hearings. He is one of five people facing state felony charges in the case, which brought widespread attention to the practice of pretexting, or deceiving to obtain private records.

HP leaders hired Wagner and the others to look into how trade secrets about their company leaked to the media, but claim they had no knowledge of investigator's tactics.

So far, Wagner is the only one facing charges in federal court. He entered a plea agreement with federal authorities, who are continuing their investigation.

Wagner's attorney filed a motion to dismiss the state's case in Santa Clara County Superior Court. The lawyer argued that the state could not prosecute Wagner because he has pleaded guilty to similar charges at the federal level. The double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars prosecutors from trying a defendant more than for the same crime.

The four other defendants have maintained their innocence. They include private investigators Ronald DeLia and Matthew Depante, former HP lawyer and ethics chief Kevin Hunsaker and former Board Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, who is battling cancer.

Hunsaker and Dunn are among a group of HP employees and board members who resigned after the company revealed that people working on its behalf might have used questionable tactics while trying to ferret out boardroom leaks.

HP agreed to a $14.5 million settlement the same day California prosecutors filed and dropped civil charges against the company.