14 February 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California announced that David Jeansonne pleaded guilty today to two criminal counts in a scheme that sent email to users of Microsoft’s WebTV1 Internet service containing an attachment that, when opened, reprogrammed their computers to dial 9-1-1 without their knowledge. This prompted unnecessary emergency police dispatches at numerous locations around the country in July 2002.
David Jeansonne, 44, of Metairie, Louisiana, pleaded guilty to two counts charging him with intentionally damaging protected computers, causing a threat to public safety and losses of over $5000, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5)(A)(i).
WebTV (MSN TV) is a product of Microsoft Corporation that allows subscribers to connect to the Internet using their standard television as a monitor. In pleading guilty, Mr. Jeansonne admitted that he sent an email with an attachment to approximately 20 subscribers of the WebTV service in July 2002. The message claimed that the attachment was a harmless computer program that, when executed, changed the display colors seen by the WebTV user on the television screen.
Mr. Jeansonne admitted that, in reality, the email attachment contained a hidden computer script that reset the dial-in telephone number in the user’s WebTV box to 9-1-1. Accordingly, the next time the user attempted to log in to WebTV, the computer dialed 9-1-1 instead of the local modem telephone number supplied to the user by WebTV to access its servers in Santa Clara. At least 10 WebTV users reported that the local police either called or visited their residences in response to the unnecessary 9-1-1 calls. An affidavit supporting a search warrant for Jeansonne’s residence in Louisiana also contains a description of his conduct.
The maximum statutory penalty for each count is 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate. Mr. Jeansonne has been in custody on these charges since November 2004. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 14, 2005, at 9:00 a.m. before United States District Judge Ronald M. Whyte.
The prosecution is being overseen by the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office and is the result of an investigation by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle F. Waldinger of the CHIP Unit is prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release may be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can. Related court documents and information may be found on the District Court website at www.cand.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.cand.uscourts/gov.
All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be directed to Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher P. Sonderby, Chief of the CHIP Unit, at (408) 535-5037, or Luke Macaulay at (415) 436-6757 or by email at Luke.Macaulay3@usdoj.gov.
1. WebTV’s name has since been changed to MSN TV.