Defense: Government Was Out To Get UBS Sys Admin - InformationWeek
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Defense: Government Was Out To Get UBS Sys Admin

The defense in a federal computer sabotage case told the jury that the government was working with federal and private investigators to frame his client. The prosecution said the claim was a far-fetched conspiracy theory. The case is now in the hands of a jury.

NEWARK, N.J. -- After six weeks of trial, the UBS computer sabotage case went to the jury Tuesday, but not before the defense, in its closing arguments, charged that government investigators planted evidence, relied on "polluted" evidence, and ignored evidence contrary to its case, in an effort to frame the defendent, a former systems administrator for UBS PaineWebber.

Few of the government's witnesses escaped unscathed from defense attorney Chris Adams' attacks in his two-hour closing here in U.S. District Court.

But then the government's lead prosecutor, who gave his closing argument on Monday, came back in a rebuttal closing, and told the jury that the defense's arguments were a last-minute effort at a red herring.

To believe Adams' argument, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mauro Wolfe, the jurors would have to believe in the existence of a massive, multilayered conspiracy between several private companies and law enforcement agencies, all focused on framing Roger Duronio.

Duronio, 63, of Bogota, N.J., is standing trial on federal charges in connection with the March 4, 2002, attack on UBS PaineWebber that took down nearly 2,000 servers and crippled some branch offices for up to several weeks. He is accused of computer sabotage, securities fraud and mail fraud.

On Tuesday morning, Adams came out swinging in his close.

"This is the quintessential example of hammering that square peg into a round hole, no matter how many times you tell them it's the wrong peg," said Adams, who is with Walder, Hayden & Brogan in Roseland, N.J. "You have to decide if this is out of control. I ask you to reject these charges as a matter of conscience."

Early on in his closing, Adams turned the full force of his attacks on Keith Jones, the government's star witness and forensics investigator. The defense attorney called Jones an unfair, biased man with an agenda that focused on pushing the government's case forward without regard to the evidence. "You remember his demeanor when I asked him questions?" Adams asked of the jury. "Remember when asked if there was anything in the world that would change his mind and he said no? ... Is that an indication of an expert who's open-minded? Or is that the indication of an expert with an agenda?"

Adams mocked Jones' assertion during part of his direct examination that whoever built and planted the malicious code at the heart of the attack had to have a password for several different operations to pull it off. The defense attorney pointed out that there was only one password for everything.

"These are all different doors, and you'd have to know where they are, and you'd have to have a key," Adams said. "It sounds complicated. But did [Jones] bother to check that there's one key to all these doors? Did he care? ... Not only do you get into the Unix world with the same key, but you get into the VPN with the same key. You get into the [main host server] with the same key and the dev servers with the same key. But don't bother him with that."

Adams added: "There's no one you met in this trial who's less open minded, who has more of an agenda." Adams accused Jones of having a vested interest in pushing this case through because he's a part owner of his company, Mandiant. "Everything he did said, 'Don't bother me with that. I've made up my mind.' "

A Setup

While Adams quickly described UBS's network security weaknesses, he spent a great deal of time telling the jury that the company actually was manufacturing a case against Duronio.

The defense attorney noted that a lot of the evidence came directly from UBS, that UBS had allegedly withheld information from the defense, and that UBS also got rid of what Adams called key pieces of evidence--workstations that had belonged to two other systems administrators, Charles Richards and William Robertson. Both men had been briefly interviewed about the March 4, 2002, attack. While no criminal evidence was found connected to either, both were put on leave and then let go from UBS the next year. Both men were said to be friends with Duronio.

"What's the common thread of what was withheld, destroyed, or avoided?" Adams asked. "Charles Richards and UBS. ... Why do that? Why the secrecy?"

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