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Calif. May Drop Charges Against Investigator in HP Scandal

The state will likely drop criminal charges against an investigator in the Hewlett-Packard Co. boardroom spying scandal because he already pleaded guilty to similar crimes in federal court.

The state will likely drop criminal charges against a low-level investigator in the Hewlett-Packard Co. boardroom spying scandal because he already pleaded guilty to similar crimes in federal court, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Robert Morgester, a deputy attorney general, said outside a Santa Clara County Superior Court hearing that his office probably would not oppose a defense motion to dismiss all state charges against Bryan Wagner, 29, of Littleton, Colo.

The state is prohibited from prosecuting someone for a crime if that person has already admitted to the same acts in a federal case, Morgester said.

However, Morgester said his office still needs to review Wagner's federal charges and plea agreement to verify that he admitted to the same criminal acts that led California's attorney general to pursue charges against him.

Wagner's defense lawyer, Stephen Naratil, appeared in court Wednesday to request a hearing on the matter. A judge set the hearing for Jan. 26.

In the state case, Wagner and four others each face four felony counts of identity theft, conspiracy and fraud for their alleged roles in HP's ill-fated effort to ferret out the source of boardroom leaks to the media.

The California attorney general's office filed those charges in October against Wagner, former HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, former HP ethics chief Kevin Hunsaker, Ronald DeLia, a longtime HP security contractor from the Boston area, and Matthew DePante, an investigator from Florida.

But last week, federal prosecutors charged Wagner in San Jose federal court for the same crimes, and he struck a plea deal and agreed to testify for the prosecution.

No one else has been charged in the federal probe, but the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco said the investigation was ongoing.

As part of the arrangement, Wagner pleaded guilty to two felony counts: identity theft and conspiracy. He acknowledged using the Social Security numbers of HP directors, journalists and their family members to get telephone companies to cough up their detailed phone logs, and conspiring to distribute that information to others involved in the probe.

For now, the state case against Dunn, Hunsaker, DeLia and DePante appears to be going forward. Their lawyers also appeared in court Wednesday, and the judge ordered them to return Feb. 28 to schedule preliminary hearings.

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