October 6, 2006 in Business

Former HP chair Dunn appears in court

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

Ousted Hewlett-Packard Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, left, appears in a San Jose, Calif., courtroom, Thusday. Dunn was in court on felony charges tied to the ill-fated boardroom spying probe at the computer and printer giant.
(Full-size photo)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Ousted Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairwoman Patricia Dunn surrendered to authorities Thursday, a day after she and four others were charged in HP’s ill-fated investigation to ferret out the source of boardroom leaks.

Dunn, 53, who initiated the probe that has shaken Silicon Valley’s largest and oldest technology company, made a brief appearance in Santa Clara County Superior Court to sign a promise to return on Nov. 17 for her arraignment.

She declined an onlooker’s request for an autograph as she exited the courthouse and hopped into a chauffeur-driven sedan for the short trip to the county sheriff’s office, where she was fingerprinted, photographed, booked and released.

Neither Dunn nor an attorney representing her, S. Raj Chatterjee, would comment Thursday afternoon. She was charged Wednesday along with former HP chief ethics officer Kevin Hunsaker and three investigators — Ronald DeLia, Matthew DePante and Bryan Wagner.

Hunsaker was booked and released Thursday morning, and his arraignment was scheduled for Dec. 6, his legal team said.

The five each face four felony counts: use of false or fraudulent pretenses to obtain confidential information from a public utility; unauthorized access to computer data; identity theft; and conspiracy to commit each of those crimes. Each charge carries a fine of up to $10,000 and three years in prison.

HP CEO Mark Hurd is not among those named in the complaint filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court — nor was HP’s former General Counsel Ann Baskins, who had some oversight of the company’s investigation of media leaks.

HP’s investigation, which took place earlier this year and in 2005, erupted into a national scandal last month after HP disclosed that detectives it hired had obtained the private phone records of directors, employees and journalists in HP’s effort to ferret out the source of media leaks.

Using a shady tactic known as “pretexting,” the detectives obtained the Social Security numbers of their targets and fooled telephone companies into divulging their detailed call logs.

At a news conference Wednesday, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said his investigation of the company, long revered for its ethics and professionalism, was not yet complete and hinted more charges could be ahead.

“One of our state’s most venerable institutions lost its way as its board sought to find out who leaked confidential company information to the press,” Lockyer said.

Arrest warrants were issued and a prosecution spokesman said Thursday that attorneys for all the defendants except DePante had been contacted and their clients agreed to voluntarily surrender.

Dunn’s lawyer, James Brosnahan, said his client has fought for good corporate governance her entire career and will fight the charges “with everything she has.”

“These charges are being brought against the wrong person at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons,” he said in a statement.

Hunsaker’s lead lawyer, Michael Pancer, reiterated that his client had been assured of the legality of the tactics and was fired from HP when he refused to resign.

“At no time did he — or would he — ever authorize or engage in any activity that he thought was illegal,” Pancer said in a statement.

The telephone rang unanswered Thursday morning at DePante’s office in Melbourne, Fla. No listed home number for him could be located. Wagner did not immediately return a call.

DeLia asserted his innocence in a statement he read to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

“I am innocent of these charges,” DeLia said. “I’ve been a professional private investigator for more than 30 years. I respect the law and I did not break the law in the HP investigation.”


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email