Culminating a two-week trial in which no hacking in the traditional sense occurred, a California man was convicted Wednesday under the same hacking statute internet sensation Aaron Swartz was accused of before he committed suicide in January.
Defendant David Nosal was convicted by a San Francisco federal jury on all six charges ranging from theft of trade secrets to hacking, despite him never breaking into a computer. Nosal remains free pending sentencing later this year, when he faces a potential lengthy prison term.
Nosal, a middle-aged man wearing a dark suit, sat stone faced as a clerk read “guilty” on all counts. Jurors deliberated for little more than two days.
After U.S. District Judge Edward Chen dismissed the 12-member jury, Nosal’s defense team demanded a hearing to urge the judge to set aside the verdict. A hearing was set for later this year.
“We think, legally, these counts can’t stand,” Steven Gruel, a Nosal lawyer, said outside the courtroom. Prosecutors declined comment.
Nosal’s prosecution was a novel application of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the same statue Swartz was accused of violating when he allegedly breached security controls of an MIT database and downloaded millions of JSTOR academic articles. After Swartz’s death, the case set off calls across the nation to reform the 1984 hacking law and perhaps even reduce the 5-year terms each violation carries.