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Originally published Thursday, July 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Ex-Boeing worker will not face new trial for leaking files

The King County Prosecutor's Office will not retry ex-Boeing worker Gerald Eastman, who was accused of improperly accessing sensitive computer files.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The King County Prosecutor's Office will not retry an ex-Boeing worker accused of improperly accessing sensitive computer files and leaking them to the media.

In an agreement announced today, Gerald Eastman has agreed to help Boeing recover information that he leaked to the media and prosecutors said they will not seek a second trial in the case. If Eastman does not live up to the agreement, a judge can find him guilty of 10 misdemeanor counts of computer trespass, each of which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail.

"I'm glad we finally got through this," said Eastman, 46, of Kent.

Eastman said he hopes prosecutors will stick to the agreement. "I have no doubt I will," he said.

Eastman was charged with 16 counts of computer trespass, a charge normally reserved for hackers who force their way into somebody else's personal computer. Eastman was accused of taking files and other information from an employee-accessible system and leaking it to The Seattle Times. Eastman also gave information to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, according to evidence presented at trial.

Eastman, who worked at Boeing for 18 years — much of it as a quality-control inspector — argued that he had access to those files.

In April, a judge declared a mistrial in Eastman's first trial after the King County jury had deadlocked "because there was confusion about the law and how it applied to the facts of this case," said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott Peterson.

Testimony at his trial indicated that he spent hours every day surfing internal company Web sites, and investigators allege he downloaded more than 8,000 files that police later found saved on his home computer.

Boeing and prosecutors claimed that 16 stories in The Seattle Times contained information from downloaded documents.

Peterson and Eastman's attorney, Ramona Brandes, said the jury was irrevocably split, 10-2, for conviction.

Brandes said the jury was faced with a "vague statute" that does not specifically say it is a crime for an employee to access information that an employer doesn't want him to have. Given the facts of the case, she said, the jury's failure to reach a verdict was not surprising and showed that the panel had paid close attention during the trial.

Eastman was arrested at work in May 2006, briefly held in the King County Jail and fired about that time.

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Boeing began an investigation into news leaks and Eastman was identified in 2006 as an employee who had downloaded thousands of pages of documents, some of which contained information that wound up in news stories. Eastman later acknowledged that he had leaked information to The Times.

About that time, Boeing received an e-mail titled "Leaks to The Seattle Times" that identified Eastman as the leaker.

The company began an investigation into Eastman and soon after contacted Seattle police.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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