One of the nation's largest law firms is guilty of computer
hacking, according to Dr. David Egilman, a clinical associate professor at
Brown Medical School.
Egilman says lawyer Kelly Stewart of Jones, Day, Reavis and Pogue hacked into
his password-protected Web site in June 2001 to discredit his testimony in a
lawsuit about the poisoning of nuclear weapons plant workers. In a November 20
deposition, (the transcript is available on Egilman's Web site,
www.egilman.com), Stewart admitted using the password, but refused to
acknowledge any wrongdoing. His firm didn't return a call seeking comment.
Egilman, who teaches corporate ethics and environmental health at Brown, owns
Never Again Consulting in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Workers hired him as their
expert witness in a lawsuit against the US Department of Energy and Brush
Wellman Inc. of Colorado for exposing them to beryllium, a metal that causes
lung disease and is used in manufacturing nuclear weapons. Wellman was
represented by Jones, Day. The firm bills itself as one of the world's largest,
employing 1600 lawyers, many of them in Cleveland, who represent more than half
of the Fortune 500 companies.
During the trial, Egilman became suspicious that Jones, Day lawyers were
illegally entering the password-protected portion of his Web site to discredit
his testimony. According to Stewart's deposition, Jones, Day tried to purchase
access to the site, but was put off by the price -- $1000 per lawyer for law
firms, or $1.7 million for Jones, Day, according to Egilman's Web site.
Attorney Douglas Behr of Keller & Heckman in Washington, DC, however,
guessed the Web site's password while defending an Occidental Petroleum
subsidiary, Occidental Chemical, in another lawsuit involving Egilman, workers,
and vinyl chloride. Behr gave Stewart the password, according to Stewart's
deposition, which Stewart used June 11, 2001, to fall into a trap set by
The feisty worker's advocate had established a link on his site, entitled "See
how Jones Day bought the Colorado Judge." When Stewart clicked on the link, his
computer's identification was recorded.
But Egilman did not accurately predict Stewart's next move. The Jones, Day
lawyer downloaded the inflammatory material and presented it to Jefferson
County, Colorado District Judge Frank Plaut in the Wellman case. Infuriated by
what he believed to be a violation of his gag order in the case, Plaut threw
out Egilman's testimony. "I didn't believe they would commit a federal felony,"
Egilman says, "and then bring the evidence in to the court."
The Washington Post, in a story on the case, reports that entering a
Web site by guessing a password is a violation of the federal Computer Fraud
and Abuse Act. But without Egilman's testimony, the jury in the Colorado case
determined that DOE and Wellman were not liable for the workers' lung
Appalled by the Jones, Day hacking, Egilman says he asked Massachusetts
Attorney General Tom Riley and US Attorney Margaret Curran to prosecute. They
declined. "They're against street crime," says Egilman, "as long as the street
isn't Wall Street." Riley's spokeswoman declined comment. Curran's spokesman,
Thomas Connell, says the US attorney does not comment on investigations, adding
that there are often jurisdictional questions in similar cases involving
alleged computer crimes. Egilman has not given up, however; he has sued
Stewart, Behr, Jones, Day, and Occidental Chemical in a Texas court.
That hacking case is pending, but Egilman acknowledges that it is not his
prime concern. "Compared to killing the workers, it's not much," he says. "The
real victims are the workers."
Issue Date: January 17 - 23, 2003