Six days after he convinced a bemused federal judge to rescind his bond and
send him to jail, accused eBay hacker Jerome Heckenkamp is having a somewhat
harder time getting back out.
In a hearing at the federal courthouse in San Jose, Calif. Thursday, U.S.
magistrate Patricia Trumble ordered that Heckenkamp remain in custody to
face new allegations that he violated computer-related conditions of his
pre-trial release sometime before his voluntary imprisonment last Friday.
The accusations came hours after Heckenkamp's pre-trial release supervisor
and two agents of the FBI's elite Computer Analysis and Response Team (CART)
carried out an early-morning search of Heckenkamp's computer at the San Jose
home where he rents a room. The team allegedly turned up evidence that the
computer whiz violated a year-old court order banning him from using the
Internet while free on bail.
"There were definite indications that the Internet had been accessed from
that computer, or at least the hard drive in that computer," assistant U.S.
attorney Ross Nadel told the court.
Trumble ordered that Heckenkamp's computer be seized for further
examination. A full hearing on the pre-trial allegations is set for Tuesday
Heckenkamp's lawyer, Jennifer Granick, pointed out that the PC did not have
a modem, and claimed that the disk drive in the computer had previously been
used by Heckenkamp's father in a completely different PC. It was the senior
Heckenkamp who used the Internet, said Granick.
In a telephone interview after the hearing, Heckenkamp's father backed up
Granick's claim, and said his son brought the hard drive with him on a
recent visit over the holidays. "I used it quite a bit, to keep up with
things," said Thomas Heckenkamp, a Wisconsin pharmacist. "I did get some
information for him [from the Internet], but so what. I used it, got some
information, then got offline and that's it."
Also at issue is Heckenkamp's possession of the computer in first place.
Nadel told the court that Heckenkamp had been authorized by his pre-trial
supervisor to own only a single computer, a laptop, that FBI agents had
sealed by covering the Ethernet, USB and printer ports with police evidence
tape. Granick insisted that the supervisor later approved the desktop
machine as well.
The Thursday search followed-up an earlier inspection of Heckenkamp's home
on the heels of his Friday self-detention. In that first visit, supervising
pre-trial services officer Jacqueline Peoples and FBI agents noted that the
tape on the back of the laptop appeared to have been disturbed.
According to Nadel, Peoples brought the FBI to assist with the searches
because the theoretically-independent Pre-Trial Services office had no
computer expertise of its own.
HECKENKAMP: 'I DIDN'T FEEL FREE ANYWAY'. A former network engineer at Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico,
Heckenkamp lost his job in January, 2001 when prosecutors charged him with
defacing eBay under the hacker handle MagicFX in 1999, while a graduate
student at the University of Wisconsin. He's also charged with penetrating
computers belonging to Lycos, Exodus Communications, Juniper Networks,
E-Trade Group and Cygnus Support Solutions. Heckenkamp says he's innocent on
all counts. His trial is set for March.
The supervising officer's and the FBI's interest in Heckenkamp's pre-trial
conduct after a year without incident was apparently triggered by
Heckenkamp's extraordinary efforts to get out from under the $50,000 bond
that secured his release.
Those efforts began Friday, when Heckenkamp unexpectedly fired attorney
Jennifer Granick, and in an impromptu hour-long hearing persuaded the
reluctant Trumble to rescind, or "exonerate," the bail, which was posted by
a friend a year ago. At his own request, Heckenkamp was taken into custody,
though procedural hang-ups have kept the money from being returned.
Heckenkamp later rehired Granick.
In an interview at the
Santa Clara County Jail on Tuesday, Heckenkamp told SecurityFocus that his
actions were aimed at relieving his friend from the financial burden of the
bond, and were also prompted by growing frustration over the slow pace of
his criminal case, and the ongoing restrictions that conditioned his
release. "As long as I was out on bond, I didn't feel free anyway," said
Heckenkamp. "And I can't work on my case properly with the computer
After Thursday's hearing, prosecutor Nadel said Heckenkamp's behavior looked
suspicious. "The timing of it, coming in Friday and asking for bail
exoneration, and now the Internet access, raises questions," said Nadel.
But Granick said there's no big mystery. "The gentleman who posted the bail
for him wants it back," said Granick. "He wanted it back before the
holidays, but he waited until Jerome had the chance to go home and visit his
family." By Kevin Poulsen