Calif. court drops charges against Dunn

Judge dismisses misdemeanor charge against former HP chairman. Three other defendants in spying scandal to do community service.
Written by Leslie Katz, Contributor
A California judge on Wednesday dismissed the charges against former Hewlett-Packard Chairman Patricia Dunn in the HP spying scandal.

The three other remaining defendants--former HP attorney Kevin Hunsaker; private detective Ronald DeLia; and Matthew DePante of data-brokering company Action Research Group--pleaded no contest to a count of fraudulent wire communications at Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose, Calif., the state attorney general's office said in a statement. The trio will be required to complete 96 hours of community service by September 12; the court said it will dismiss the case against them if that condition is satisfied.

Patricia Dunn Patricia Dunn

Dunn, for her part, did not enter a plea.

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

Earlier Wednesday, the state attorney general's office had released a statement saying Dunn would, in fact, plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of fraudulent wire communications. Later, it released a subsequent statement calling its earlier prediction mistaken.

"At court today, Patricia Dunn did not enter any plea in response to the misdemeanor count, and the court exercised its discretion by dismissing the case against her," the statement said.

Originally, California charged five people with four felonies, including conspiracy and identity theft. In January, the state dismissed its case against the fifth HP defendant, Bryan Wagner, a Colorado man believed to have been an employee of Action Research, when he pleaded guilty to federal charges relating to his role in HP's internal investigation of boardroom leaks. Under California law, the state cannot prosecute a defendant for conduct that the defendant has already been tried for in another jurisdiction.

The charges were a direct response to the brouhaha last year in which HP executives admitted that outside investigators had used a technique called "pretexting," or posing as someone else to obtain phone records of reporters and board members suspected of involvement in press leaks. Then-board Chairman Dunn, who spearheaded the investigation, said she had been unaware of the technique's use and called it "embarrassing."

Dunn expressed relief following Wednesday's dismissal.

"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 in a statement. "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."

Former HP board member and venture capitalist Tom Perkins responded quickly to the news. Perkins stepped down from HP's board in May of last year amid differences with Dunn over the leak probe and has lambasted the former chairman for her role in the scandal.

"The attorney general and the court have fashioned a most appropriate resolution of this case," he said in a statement Wednesday. "My thoughts and hopes continue to be with Pattie Dunn in her courageous battle against cancer."

Dunn revealed in October that she was starting chemotherapy to treat ovarian cancer.

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