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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 20:04 GMT
Ex-Hewlett head's charges dropped
Patricia Dunn
Ms Dunn resigned last September as the scandal broke
Criminal charges have been dropped against former Hewlett Packard (HP) chairwoman Patricia Dunn in connection with a corporate spying scandal.

Three other defendants entered no contest pleas and will do community service instead of going to jail.

Ms Dunn resigned when it was revealed she had started an internal campaign to find the source of a boardroom leak.

The four were charged with offences including conspiracy and unauthorised access to computer data.

"I am pleased that this matter has been resolved fairly," Ms Dunn said.

"I have always had faith that the truth would win out and justice would be served - and it has been."

Her lawyer James Brosnahan said that Ms Dunn being cleared was "a vindication..in every sense of the word".

"It shows what she's maintained throughout: that she's innocent of these charges."

Under scrutiny

Each of the charges carried a fine of up to $10,000 and three years in prison.

A judge at Santa Clara Superior Court did not immediately accept the pleas from he computer firm's former chief ethics officer Kevin Hunsaker, private investigator Ronald DeLia and outside investigator Joseph DePante.

Judge Ray E. Cunningham said that the charges would be dropped after the commmunity service was carried out.

Federal prosecutors said that, while the deal struck with state prosecutors allowed all four defendants to avoid jail, their probe at HP was ongoing.

Hewlett Packard came under scrutiny from US authorities trying to discover if it had broken any laws during its investigation into media leaks.

In an attempt to find out which employee had leaked "confidential" reports to the press, investigators obtained the phone records and other data of journalists and HP employees without their permission.

The practice - known as "pretexting" - is a common one among private investigators but tests the limits of California state law, as prosecutors believe it violates laws covering identity theft and unauthorised access to computer data.

Ms Dunn - who had launched the investigation - resigned from HP's board in September.

She had repeatedly denied knowing what tactics the investigators would use to uncover the source of the leak and said she did not know the lengths to which the detectives were going to get the information.

Former HP director George Keyworth - who was finally named as the source of the leak - resigned once the news of HP's practices became public.

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