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Accused eBay hacker out on bond

Irritated judges chill out

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Accused superhacker Jerome Heckenkamp was released from jail last week after seven months in federal stir, but only after assuring two federal judges that he respects their authority after all.

Heckenkamp, 23, was taken into custody last March during a court appearance in San Jose, Calif. where, representing himself against a battery of computer crimes charges, he angered federal judge James Ware with a series of baffling legal arguments apparently inspired by failed tax-protester tactics.

In one gambit, Heckenkamp challenged one the indictment against him on the grounds that it spelled his name in all capital letters, while he spells it with the first letter capitalized, and subsequent letters in lower case.

Seemingly moved into doubting Heckenkamp's commitment to appear at trial, Judge Ware ordered him taken into custody on the spot.

Two months later, from behind bars, Heckenkamp argued in his related San Diego case that he wasn't subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts because he had expatriated from "the corporation known as United States" and "re-patrioted into the de-jure California republic." He went on to demand that the plaintiff in the case, the U.S. government, appear in court, and accused prosecutors of fraud or mental incompetence for proceeding without a "client."

The judge in that case, Napoleon Jones, Jr., rejected Heckenkamp's arguments, and assigned him a court-appointed attorney over his objections.

Heckenkamp refused to meet with the panel attorney, but in September apparently gave up on representing himself and hired Los Angeles lawyer Blair Berk -- a decision that promptly reversed his fortune. In a month of filings in both courts, Berk argued that Heckenkamp, who dutifully made all his court appearances before his arrest, would continue to show up if freed again on bail -- regardless of how his name was capitalized.

"Jerome Heckenkamp acknowledges the authority of this court to require him to physically appear or to appear through counsel and answer the charges presently pending before the court," wrote Berk.

Prosecutors didn't oppose his release, and Judge Ware eventually agreed to leave the decision up to Judge Jones, who, after holding a hearing on the matter, set bail at $50,000.

Now free on a signature bond executed by his father, Heckenkamp will live in Los Angeles under house arrest, forbidden to leave home except to attend legal meetings or go to work, or for 90 minutes of exercise a day. By court order he's barred from the Internet, but is permitted to use a single "drone" computer at home to review the electronic evidence in his case, without a modem, and with all the connectors but the mouse, keyboard and power ports covered with police evidence tape. He'll also wear a GPS tracking device, monitored by federal Pre-Trial Services officers.

A former Los Alamos National Labs network engineer, Heckenkamp faces 10 felony charges in his San Diego case for allegedly hacking telecom equipment-maker Qualcomm while a gradate student in 1999. In the San Jose, Calif. case, he's charged with penetrating computers belonging to Lycos, Exodus Communications, Juniper Networks and Cygnus Support Solutions, and defacing online auction site eBay under the hacker handle "MagicFX." That case is on hold pending the conclusion of the San Diego case, in which no trial date is currently set.

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