March 26, 1999 4:45 PM PST

Notorious hacker's plea bargain accepted

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Kevin Mitnick's plea bargain was accepted this afternoon, putting the notorious hacker on a fast track to release from prison.

Under the terms of the plea bargain, accepted by U.S. District Judge Mariana Pfaelze, Mitnick was sentenced to a five-year prison term and signed an eight-page statement of fact detailing his crimes.

Mitnick has already served 49 months since his arrest in Raleigh, North Carolina, so he could be freed by next year, depending on good behavior considerations. He will be eligible to release to a halfway house as early as this fall, according to his attorney, Donald Randolph.

"I'm pleased that my client has a certain date by which he'll be released," Randolph said today after the plea was accepted.

"Obviously, there are a number of important issues that would have been litigated had we gone to trial, so from a legal standpoint I'm sorry we won't have the opportunity to do so. But all in all I think my client is well served by the plea bargain."

Mitnick pleaded guilty to 5 of 25 counts brought against him by the government, in addition to another two counts brought against in the Northern California district court that were transferred as part of the plea bargain.

The counts ranged from computer fraud, wire fraud, and interception of wire communications. In this case, those interceptions were the interception of computer user names and passwords.

Painter said he was satisfied with judge's decision. "We told her it was similar to what we would have gotten if had gone to trial," he said.

As part of Mitnick's punishment, he will be barred from using computers for three years. But that penalty will coincide with a similar ban from his conviction and sentencing in a North Carolina court.

Mitnick will be formally sentenced in June. The 35-year-old was scheduled to go on trial next month.

Mitnick pled guilty to breaking into numerous computer networks, accessing thousands of credit card numbers, and stealing software over a three-year period.


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