Alleged network hijacker has criminal past

The San Francisco computer engineer accused of hijacking The City’s network, whose request for a bail reduction was denied by a judge Wednesday, had been arrested in 1995 on aggravated assault and carrying a concealed weapon.

Superior Court Judge Lucy Kelly McCabe refused to lower the $5 million bail for Terry Childs after prosecutor Conrad del Rosario accused the 43-year-old of “maliciousness,” and charged that he rigged the computer system to “completely devastate the entire network.”

Childs’s attorney, Erin Crane, called the charge “spurious,” pointing out that “everything is running fine.”

Childs, of Pittsburg, is accused of locking down The City’s central network — called the FiberWAN network — that he helped create by refusing for more than one week to release the passwords for other systems administrators to gain access to the network. Authorities have said the network contains payroll documents, sensitive law enforcement records, officials’ e-mail and other data. Childs recently surrendered the codes in a jailhouse meeting with Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The City has spent in excess of $100,000 on consultants from Cisco and has had about two dozen of its own network experts working overtime to resolve the issue, Department of Technology Chief Ron Vinson said.

Childs’ criminal history stretches back to when he was a teenager and spent four years in a Kansas State Jail for aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery with use of a knife. He also was arrested in 1995 on charges of aggravated assault and carrying a concealed weapon — charges that were later reduced to a misdemeanor count of criminal possession of a firearm.

Del Rosario also stated that a search of Childs’ home July 12 revealed 9-mm and .45-caliber bullets — in violation of laws prohibiting felons from possessing ammunition.

Crane argued that the $5 million bail was excessive, but the prosecutor’s response filed late Tuesday argued that his previous record indicates he may be a danger to the public.

He accused Childs of having rigged the system to completely fail during a routine power outage that Childs was allegedly aware was scheduled for July 19. Though The City managed to avoid that failure, del Rosario said some city agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office and the Recreation and Park Department, were still locked out of the system.

Crane defended Childs, saying he had reformed since his earlier convictions. She pointed to the fact that the system has continued to run perfectly, even after he was incarcerated, as proof that he meant no malevolence. In fact, she said, Childs was so “competent and ethical” that he madehis co-workers “look bad,” so they hired private investigators in an attempt to “dig up dirt on him.”

At the end of the brief hearing, Superior Court Judge Lucy Kelly McCabe denied the bail reduction.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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