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Diebold Whistle-Blower Charged With Felony Access 585

Vicissidude writes "An employee of law firm Jones Day found legal memos showing that their client, Diebold Election Systems, had used uncertified voting systems in Alameda County elections beginning in 2002 - violating California election law. The whistle-blower turned over the memos to the Oakland Tribune, which published the legal memos on its website in April 2004. The company's AccuVote-TSx model was subsequently banned in May 2004. Now, the whistle-blower, Stephen Heller, has been charged in L.A. Superior Court with felony access to computer data, commercial burglary, and receiving stolen property. If convicted on all three counts, Heller could face up to three years and eight months in state prison. Blair Berk, Heller's attorney state, "Certainly, someone who saw those documents could have reasonably believed that thousands of voters were going to be potentially disenfranchised in upcoming elections." Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the L.A. County district attorney's office rebuts, "He's accused of breaking the law... If we feel that the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt in our minds that a crime has been committed, it's our job as a criminal prosecutor to file a case.""
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Diebold Whistle-Blower Charged With Felony Access

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2006 @12:52PM (#14809282)
    No, the jury gets to even decide if the law is to be applied or not. It is the last of the checks and balances left to the people to keep the government in check. If they can't convict anyone of a crime, then they have no power.

    Remember, when we overthrew a tyrant and started up one of the worlds first democracies, the United States had a very serious distrust of government, so we arranged things so that the people had the final say where the rubber hits the road in our legal system. You have to get 12 people to find you guilty of a crime, or you are free to go. All it takes is one person of concious on that jury to let you go free.

    The Words of the Founding Fathers

    Jurors should acquit, even against the judge's instruction...
    if exercising their judgement with discretion and honesty
    they have a clear conviction the charge of the court is wrong.
    -- Alexander Hamilton, 1804

    It is not only the juror's right, but his duty to find the verdict
    according to his own best understanding, judgement and conscience,
    though in direct opposition to the instruction of the court.
    --John Adams, 1771

    I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man
    by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.
    -- Thomas Jefferson, 1789

    It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made
    by men of their choice, if the laws are so voluminous that they
    cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood;
    if they... undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows
    what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow
    -- James Madison

  • by Gulthek ( 12570 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @12:55PM (#14809309) Homepage Journal
    What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.

    - Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Stephens Smith (November 13, 1787) l64.htm []
  • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @12:57PM (#14809336) Homepage
    This is one gint step backwards for our rights. When a person who lets others know of posible corruption, and than get prosicuted for informing the public of so- called corruption, is that not corruption in its most simplelistic form???
  • RTFA!!!!! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2006 @01:12PM (#14809508)
    Quote: "The documents included legal memos from one Jones Day attorney to another regarding allegations by activists that Diebold had used uncertified voting systems in Alameda County elections beginning in 2002.

    In the memos, a Jones Day attorney opined that using uncertified voting systems violated California election law and that if Diebold had employed an uncertified system, Alameda County could sue the company for breaching its $12.7-million contract."

    Read that again now, SLOWLY . The memos DO NOT SAY that Diebold HAD used uncertified machines, but were just giving a legal opinion on what COULD HAPPEN IF (that is a BIG IF) they did.

    This is standard - attorney client privellage trade secret, etc.... (ie. Don't disclose) stuff.

    If you were on trial, would you want some idiot secretary releasing your defense strategy to newspapers?

    "The documents also revealed that Diebold's attorneys were exploring whether the California secretary of state had the authority to investigate the company for alleged election law violations."

    AGAIN, more attorney-client advice - nothing specific.

    Unless the article is wrong about the substance of the memos - this guy should be nailed to the wall for releasing confidential information between an attorney and a client.

    Also, as others have pointed out - GO TO A GOVERNMENT AGENCY and NOT A NEWSPAPER!
  • by RealProgrammer ( 723725 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @01:17PM (#14809561) Homepage Journal
    I'm as much an opponent of rigged elections as anybody. But in your zeal to see black and white, you missed the point.

    It's not that alerting the citizenry that a voting machine is uncertified is bad, nor even that blowing the whistle is bad. This is not a simple case of retribution against a whistleblower.

    It's stealing documents that's bad. Violating attorney-client privilege is bad. Why, you ask?

    Even those accused of murder and child molestation have a right to a fair trial. In fact, the more heinous the crime the more important it is to conduct the trial fairly, so as not to punish the innocent. Funny how people who otherwise know that forget it when someone they don't like, whether it's OJ Simpson or Diebold, is the accused.

    Leaking documents prejudices the case, one way or another, and risks having the case thrown out. Attorneys *must* be able to discuss in secret what their strategy is, or the legal system would fall apart. The discussions between two attorneys behind the scene are not facts, they are not evidence. They are merely commentary.

    The trouble is that people (jurors) cannot help but form an opinion based on some leak. "Gee, if that's what they say in private, it must be true." Possibly, if the discussion is not taken out of context by some reporter with an axe to grind or newspapers to sell. It's also possible that the typist only chose those documents that looked the worst for Diebold.

    I don't want the justice system to reward people who work to thwart it, even if it means letting a guilty man go free.

  • by nharmon ( 97591 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @01:57PM (#14809935)
    Yes, this really is a crime. The devil is in the details.

    This guy is an employee of a law firm whose client sent them confidential information. This guy then took it upon himself to violate attorney-client priviledge and turn the documents over to a newspaper.

    IMHO, this is nothing like some poor bugger who informs on his employer for dumping toxic waste.
  • by stlhawkeye ( 868951 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @03:42PM (#14810955) Homepage Journal
    This is wrong. Whistle-blowers status is to protect individuals who divulge information vital to the welfare of the people in which the people have an overriding interest. In many cases they are reporting on government corruption and cannot be expected to trust other elements of the government. It is important that they can provide their information to law enforcement and the public via any channel, public or private.

    Go read the whistleblower statutes. You're incorrect. Insightful, but incorrect. behavior in others.

  • Here is the mailto: for Sandi Gibbons [mailto], The L.A. County D.A.'s spokesperson with the obnoxious opinion in this piece.

    She can probably be deluged with your complaints, and general opinion on her political future, and that of sitting D.A., Steve Cooley []. He's tried to frame himself as holder of a non-partisan office, but this makes his acknowledged party affiliation pretty obvious. He previously insulted [] jurors [] and responsible in the failure to prosecute [] the attackers of Donovan Jackson.

    A more civil feedback form is available at []. I think Ms. Gibbon's own e-mail might garner more attention.

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