By Thomas K. Pendergast
Is this the case of an egomaniacal computer network engineer holding the City’s new computer system hostage to save his job? Or is this about the gross mismanagement of sensitive security and employee issues by top City administrators, who weren’t interested in following well-established procedures?
That’s the central question that a jury is now considering in the trial of Terry Childs, 45, of Pittsburg, California. Childs is a former San Francisco Department of Technology engineer accused of withholding passwords to the City’s main computer network in 2008.
Authorities allege that he commandeered the City’s new FiberWAN computer network, which he was in charge of designing, engineering and implementing.
This system centralizes what had been separate networks from different city departments and now includes the SFPD, Sheriff’s Department and payroll system, among others.
Childs was arrested in July of 2008, after he refused to give his boss critical passwords to the City’s new FiberWAN network for 12 days, until he finally handed them over to Mayor Gavin Newsom in a jail cell.
The trial featured the testimony on the witness stand from both Newsom and Cisco’s Chief Security Officer, John Stewart.
He’s being held on $5 million bail and over the four-month trial, five of the 18 original jurors have dropped out. If convicted, Childs faces five years in prison.
This week both the prosecution and the defense gave their closing arguments before putting it in the hands of the jury.