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eBay hacker trashes bail with caps-lock defence

Judge very much not amused

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Accused eBay hacker Jerome Heckenkamp is back behind bars tonight, after his first solo court appearance in front of his trial judge took an odd turn.

During what was to be a routine proceeding to set future court dates, Heckenkamp challenged the indictment against him on the grounds that it spells his name, Jerome T. Heckenkamp, in all capital letters, while he spells it with the first letter capitalized, and subsequent letters in lower case.

Last week, Heckenkamp, 22, fired attorney Jennifer Granick, and co-counsel Marjorie Allard, in order to personally defend himself against two federal grand jury indictments charging that he cracked computers at eBay, Lycos, Exodus Communications, and other companies in 1999. It was the second time Heckenkamp fired his lawyers -- in January, he had a federal magistrate appoint him as his own counsel, only to change his mind the same day.

At Monday's appearance, Judge James Ware seemed initially perplexed by Heckenkamp's challenge, and spent some time explaining the nature of the proceedings. Finally, he advised Heckenkamp to take it up in front of a jury when he goes to trial. "I cannot help but comment that you have substituted out a capable attorney," the judge added.

Heckenkamp went on to demand that he be immediately allowed to take the stand and testify, and was again rebuffed by Ware, who noted that the appearance was not a hearing or a trial.

The computer whiz then asked the court to identify the plaintiff in the case. Ware explained that the United States was the plaintiff, and was represented by assistant U.S. attorney Ross Nadel. Heckenkamp said he wanted to subpoena Nadel's "client" to appear in court, and Ware asked him who, exactly, he wanted to bring into the courtroom.

When Heckenkamp replied, "The United States of America," Ware ordered him taken into custody.

"The comments that you are making to the court lead me to suspect that either you are playing games with the court, or you're experiencing a serious lack of judgment," said Ware. The judge added that he was no longer satisfied that Heckenkamp would make his future court appearances.

Heckenkamp had been free on $50,000 bail, and living under electronic monitoring -- prohibited by court order from using cell phones, the Internet, computers, video games and fax machines.

Before two deputy U.S. marshals hauled Heckenkamp away, he threatened legal action against the judge. "I will hold you personally liable," he said. "I will seek damages for every hour that I'm in custody."

In a telephone interview after the appearance, Heckenkamp's father, Thomas Heckenkamp, said his son is only trying to protect his rights . "They've overstepped their bounds, and they're keeping him from defending himself," he said.

Heckenkamp's next court appearance in San Jose is scheduled for April 8th. Trial in a related case in San Diego is set for April 23rd.

© 2002 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.

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