March trial date set for alleged teen hacker

The trial of the 16-year-old Montreal-area youth known as Mafiaboy, who is accused in a series of attacks on major Internet sites in February, has been set for March 5.

On Tuesday, the suspect pleaded “not guilty” in the juvenile section of the Court of Quebec in Montreal to approximately 66 charges that he hacked into and crippled such sites as, Yahoo Inc., Inc., eBay Inc., Dell Computer Corp.’s and others, according to his attorney, Yan Romanowski.

The teenager, who wasn’t named because of his age, was arrested in April and charged with two counts of “mischief to data” in connection with distributed denial-of-service computer attacks against CNN’s Web site and more than 1,200 sites that CNN hosts. The attacks happened between Feb. 7 and Feb. 14. The teenager allegedly pulled together a series of computers at different U.S. universities and used them to send vast amounts of data to the CNN site, causing the system to fail.

Romanowski said he expects the trial to last “a minimum of two months” because of the technical nature of the evidence.

“They’ve accused him of using different computers at different universities and [I’m assuming] they’ll have them come in to testify,” he said. “There are many details to be proved and they have to make the whole chain of evidence – bringing it back not only to my client’s residence, but to my client.”

Romanowski said previous reports that his client planned to plead guilty to all charges weren’t true.

“It was not our client’s intent to ever plead guilty,” Romanowski said. “There was a misinterpretation by the crown prosecutor’s office of something an attorney from my office said.”

On Nov. 7, prosecutor Louis Miville-Deschenes told Computerworld that the teen’s attorneys said he wanted to plead guilty. At that time, Miville-Deschenes said the suspect could have been sentenced to two years in prison and given a US$1,000 fine. Miville-Deschenes couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

Romanowski said the youth was released on bail after promising a judge that he would keep a full-time job. He also said that his client has decided not to continue attending his regular high school, but will attend private classes or night school starting in January to compete the 10th grade.

“This year there has been [zero tolerance] on the part of the school for my client,” Romanowski said. “We’re not saying he was an angel, but in the 2000-2001 school year, he was being blamed for things that he was not being blamed for in the previous school year. He said he felt the pressure and the change in attitude of the administration and decided it was in everyone’s best interest if he did not continue at the school.”