Five years ago: Hacker Mitnick to serve 22 months

Kevin Mitnick, once the FBI's most wanted hacker, is set to be sentenced Monday in Los Angeles to 22 months

First published 20 June, 1997.

Kevin Mitnick, once the FBI's most wanted hacker, is set to be sentenced Monday in Los Angeles to 22 months - six months less than he's already served since his celebrated February 15, 1995 arrest in North Carolina, according to attorneys close to the case.

Monday's sentence is for violating the terms of his probation for swiping Digital Equipment Corp. source code in the 1980's, and for minor cellular-fraud charges arising from North Carolina. This past Monday, United States District Judge Mariana Pfaelzer indicated a sentence of 14 months on a supervised release charge and 8 months on a single North Carolina charge of fraudulently making under $2,000 worth of cellular phone calls.

Though technically eligible for bail, the 33-year-old Mitnick may not be surfing the Web any time soon. His sentencing may only be the beginning of what government prosecutors have privately warned could be a revolving door of indictments and trials throughout the nation on a series of other charges related to other hacking cases.

Next January, Mitnick will likely face trial on charges that he allegedly copied source code from major cellular-phone manufacturers while a fugitive from justice. Mitnick nearly accepted a plea agreement on that case, but talks stalled last year, and the government indicted the hacker in September. At the time, the prosecutor stated Mitnick could be sentenced to a maximum of 200 years in prison. To date, no hacker has served more than five years.

The indictment names Motorola Inc., Nokia Mobile Phones Inc., Fujitsu Ltd. and others as victims of ruses by Mitnick, who allegedly falsely impersonated executives in order gain computer access. Key to the case may be the "value" of the proprietary source code allegedly taken. The government has not alleged that Mitnick damaged the pirated software or profited by his crimes or for that matter, did anything with it. Sources close to the government say it will allege at trial that the downloaded code was worth over $80 million - an amount that happens to be the figure necessary to receive the maximum federal sentence.