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3/14/2007
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California Judge Dismisses All Charges Against Former HP Chair Dunn; Three Others Cut Deals

In a mix-up, the state attorney general first reported that all defendants would plead guilty to the charges.

A California judge threw out all charges against former Hewlett-Packard board chairwoman Patricia Dunn on Wednesday.

California Attorney General Edmund (Jerry) Brown's office announced the decision less than two hours after indicating that Dunn and three other defendants would plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of fraudulent wire communications. The three other defendants -- former HP ethics officer Kevin Hunsaker and private investigators Ronald DeLia and Matthew DePante -- pleaded no contest to the charges.

The development closes one chapter in HP's pretexting scandal. Several months ago, HP revealed that investigators acting on its behalf might have lied to obtain detailed phone billing records of board members, journalists, and others in an attempt to find the source of leaks to reporters.

The defendants' lawyers appeared in Santa Clara Superior Court on Wednesday morning. The court didn't immediately accept the no-contest pleas but offered to dismiss the cases against the three defendants if they complete 96 hours of community service and make victims' restitution by Sept. 12. The court will assign the community service and victims must file requests for compensation and gain court approval before restitution is set.

The state dropped charges against another private investigator earlier this year since the investigator pleaded guilty to federal charges and state laws prohibit a defendant from being tried in more than one jurisdiction for the same crime. The law wouldn't prevent the federal government from bringing charges against defendants who pleaded guilty to state-level charges, Brown's office said.

The state originally charged the defendants with felony counts involving identity theft, wrongful use of computer data, fraudulent wire communications, and conspiracy to commit those crimes. The defendants pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Brown's office said that AT&T reported a "dramatic" decrease in pretexting in the six months since prosecutors brought charges in the HP case.

Also on Wednesday, shareholders prepared to meet and vote on whether to change the company's system for electing board members.

Dunn issued a statement through her attorney.

"I am pleased that this matter has been resolved fairly, and want to express my deep gratitude to my husband and family, who never lost faith in me throughout this ordeal," Dunn said. "I have been strengthened by wonderful support during this difficult time -- both from my dear friends and from people I have never met. I have always had faith that the truth would win out and justice would be served -- and it has been."

"We have maintained from the beginning that Pattie Dunn was innocent and thus vigorously fought the charges against her," Dunn's lawyer, James Brosnahan of Morrison & Foerster, said through a prepared statement. "Today, the judge dismissed the case. Ms. Dunn did not plead to anything. This is the right result."

Editor's note: This story replaces an earlier story, which was based on a statement from the California attorney general, that said Dunn and other defendants were going to plead guilty.

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