US computer saboteur found guilty

A former hardware engineer at a Florida-based national grocery distributor has been found guilty in US District Court in Miami on two federal counts of computer sabotage.

          A former hardware engineer at a Florida-based national grocery distributor has been found guilty in US District Court in Miami on two federal counts of computer sabotage.

          After six days of arguments and only six hours of deliberations, the jury found Herbert Pierre-Louis guilty of planting a software virus that disabled the computer network at Purity Wholesale Grocers for two days.

          Company executives testified during the trial that the June 18, 1998, incident at the $US1.5 billion company cost approximately $US84,000 in lost profits, new hardware and software, and the man-hours needed to get the system up and running again.

          "We're asking the judge to overturn the verdict and issue a new trial," says Manuel Casabielle, Pierre-Louis' attorney.

          Casabielle says he is frustrated that the jury took lost profits into consideration when putting a dollar figure on the total damage. He contends that only the new hardware, software and the man-hours spent working on the system should be figured in. And he believes that would have brought the total damage figure well below the $US5000 mark that makes this case a federal crime.

          Pierre-Louis, who worked for Purity Wholesale for slightly less than a year, is free on his own recognisance until the sentencing hearing, which is slated for late November. He faces up to five years' prison for each of the two counts.

          Assistant US Attorney Richard Boscovich, who prosecuted the case, wasn't immediately available for comment.

          This is the second guilty verdict that has been handed down this year on federal computer sabotage cases. A help desk worker pleaded guilty to similar charges in New Hampshire earlier this summer.

          Last year, the first federal case of computer sabotage was tried in Newark, New Jersey. A network administrator was found guilty in that case but the judge overturned the verdict after a juror approached the court with concerns that a piece of information she had heard on television news about an unrelated incident had been factored into her decision. An appeal of the judge's decision still is pending.

          In Miami, Casabielle maintains that his client did not attack his own network. But Casabielle also says he believes it was an inside job that was set up to look like it was perpetrated by Pierre-Louis.

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