Heckenkamp Trial Delayed

Prosecutors go back for a new indictment against the alleged eBay hacker, after the old one is found lacking in detail

The trial of accused eBay hacker Jerome Heckenkamp has been postponed while prosecutors prepare a new indictment against the 22-year-old computer whiz, following a motion by Heckenkamp's defense attorney to dismiss the old one on the grounds that it was too vague.

Heckenkamp was scheduled to begin trial in San Jose, Calif. on March 19th on charges that he defaced online auction site eBay under the hacker handle MagicFX. He's also charged with penetrating computers belonging to Lycos, Exodus Communications, Juniper Networks, E-Trade Group and Cygnus Support Solutions.

All the cybercrimes allegedly took place in 1999, while the former child prodigy was a teenage graduate student at the University of Wisconsin. Heckenkamp has repeatedly said he's innocent on all counts.

Despite the long list of alleged victims, in a motion filed last week defense attorney Jennifer Granick charged that the indictment was a little fuzzy on the details.

"The indictment had the approximate date and who owned the computer, but it didn't say which computer he allegedly got into," says Granick. "It wasn't an academic question... You're entitled to know exactly the charges against you so you can put on a defense."

Though the court had not ruled on the motion, prosecutor Ross Nadel evidently took it seriously enough to go back to a federal grand jury to fill in some of the blanks. (Nadel did not return phone calls on the matter.) The delay means a new trial date for Heckenkamp, to be set later this month.

Heckenkamp was briefly imprisoned and then freed on $50,000 bail in January, and a jurisdictional technicality put him back behind bars for a weekend late last month. He's now living in San Jose under electronic monitoring, prohibited by court order from using cell phones, the Internet, computers, video games and fax machines.

The delay in his San Jose trial means Heckenkamp will likely face his first jury five hundred miles south in San Diego, where a second indictment charges him with ten counts of computer fraud and wiretapping for an alleged two-month hacking spree in the networks of cell phone maker Qualcomm.

The San Diego indictment does not suffer from lack of detail, listing six Qualcomm computers by name and Internet address. Trial in that case is set for April 22nd.

By Kevin Poulsen

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