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United States v. Prugar

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 22, 2014



SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.

Defendant pled guilty to intentionally causing damage without authorization to a protected computer, in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ("CFAA"), 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5)(A), based on an intrusion into his former employer's protected computer system after he was terminated from his position. Prior to sentencing, Defendant moved to withdraw his guilty plea primarily on the basis that he did not knowingly and voluntarily enter the plea because he was suffering from undiagnosed Bipolar II Disorder at the time of the plea hearing. (Doc. 38.) For the reasons that follow, the court will deny Defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

I. Background

Because the court writes solely for the parties, it will recount only those facts necessary for its disposition of the matter sub judice.

Defendant, Dariusz A. Prugar ("Defendant"), was indicted on October 17, 2012 (Doc. 1), in a three count indictment.[1] He was charged with intentionally causing damage without authorization to a protected computer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5)(A); wire fraud, in violation 18 U.S.C. § 134; and Hobbs Act extortion, in violation of § 18 U.S.C. § 1951. ( Id. ) Defendant initially pled not guilty to the charges on October 23, 2012. (Doc. 11.) However, through a negotiated plea agreement, Defendant agreed to enter a plea of guilty as to Count I for intentional damage to a protected computer, and the government agreed to dismiss the charges of wire fraud and extortion. (Doc. 25.)

A. Change of Plea Proceeding

On February 19, 2013, the court held a change of plea proceeding, during which Defendant entered a guilty plea pursuant to a written agreement. (Doc. 29.) At the proceeding, the court inquired into Defendant's mental health history as well as his current well-being, and Defendant disclosed that he took Adderall, a medication typically prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"), and an anti-anxiety medication. ( See Doc. 40, p. 3 of 15.) The court further inquired as to whether he was undergoing any psychological or psychiatric counseling, and Defendant reported that he underwent counseling every other week. ( Id. ) Defendant clearly stated to the court that he fully understood what was taking place that day and that the medication was not affecting his ability to understand the proceedings. ( Id. )

Satisfied that he understood the nature of the proceedings before him, the court then advised Defendant of the constitutional rights he was waiving by virtue of pleading guilty, as follows:

[U]nder the law, you are entitled to persist in a not guilty plea and proceed to a jury trial in this matter. At a jury trial, you and counsel would select a jury consisting of 12 persons. At that trial, the Government would have the responsibility of proving each and every element of the crime charged against you beyond a reasonable doubt. You are presumed innocent until that burden is met.
At a trial, you would have the right to cross-examine any witnesses the Government would present or the right to subpoena witnesses and evidence on your own behalf although you are not required to do so. Any finding of guilt by a jury would have to be unanimous; that is, all 12 jurors would have to agree. If you give up your right to a jury trial, you give up your right to present any defenses that you may have or the right to appeal any pretrial motions.

( Id. at pp. 4-5 of 15.) After advising him of his rights, the court asked Defendant if he understood his right to a jury trial in this matter, to which Defendant answered in the affirmative. ( Id. at p. 5 of 15.) The court then asked, "Is it your desire to give up that right to a jury trial and enter a plea of guilty to the charges?" ( Id. ) Defendant answered, "It is." ( Id. )

Thereafter, the prosecutor provided the essence of the plea agreement, stating, in pertinent part, that "Defendant is going to face a maximum punishment of 10 years incarceration, a maximum fine of $250, 000, a term of supervised release, as well as a $100, 00 special assessment." ( Id. ) Defendant twice stated that he understood the maximum penalty under the plea agreement. ( See id. at p. 6 of 15.) When asked if he had reviewed "each and every paragraph in [the] plea agreement with [his] counsel, " Defendant responded that he had. ( Id. at p. 8 of 15.)

The prosecutor then reviewed the factual basis that the Government would present at trial in support of Count I as follows:

The Defendant was employed as a programmer for [a computer services business ("the Business")], which is an information technology business located in Enola, Pennsylvania.
[The Business] provides a number of computer technology services, including managing an Internet service provider [("the Online Service")].... In late June of 2010, after a series of personnel issues with [Defendant], the Defendant was terminated from his position at [the Business].... In the days following his termination, [the Business] noticed that their web service and other computer functions began to crash. For approximately a week, their system was substantially inoperable. [The Business] had to contract with outside contractors and other individuals to rebuild their system.
As a result of [the] system being compromised or being rendered inoperable, [the Online Service] customers as well as other customers of [the Business] were unable to access their Internet and e-mail services, and businesses which used these services for their internal operations were unable to perform their various business functions that they had contracted [the Business] and/or [the Online Service] to perform.
It was estimated [that] approximately 10, 000 e-mail accounts and over 300 customers were unable to utilize their services during the interruption period. Some of the customers were involved in the transportation of hazardous materials as well as the online distribution of pharmaceuticals.
During this interruption period, [the Business'] employees contacted [Defendant] by telephone and sought his assistance. [Defendant] had served as a programmer for the system [and] was the keeper of many of the codes to the various components of the computer system. The [Business'] employees contacted [Defendant] to seek his assistance to help stem the systematic compromise which was going on.
In those calls, the Defendant acknowledged that he had these codes and that he could assist the [Business'] programmers in restructuring their system. However, he requested that certain scripts and/or software programs which he believed he had a proprietary interest in as well as computer materials be returned to him in exchange for his assistance.
They were unable to reach a resolution between [the Business] and [Defendant]. Local authorities, and ultimately the FBI, were called in. Agents conducted an investigation and interviewed [Defendant]. [Defendant] confessed to the agents that he had entered the system through entry points in attempts to gather some information which he believed belonged to him, and while he was in the system, he had erased certain scripts or codes from the system.
It was this unlawful entry that the investigation revealed caused the network's damage. [The Business] lost multiple customers as a result of this outage, and the damage was in excess of $5, 000.00.

( Id. at pp. 9-11 of 15.)

In response to the Government's review of the facts underlying the plea, the court inquired of Defendant whether he agreed with the facts as recited. Specifically, the court and Defendant engaged in the following exchange:

The Court: Were you employed by [the Business] at some point in time?
Defendant: Yes, I was.
The Court: And you had access to computer information of the [B]usiness['] users?
Defendant: Yes, I did.
The Court: And you were eventually terminated by ...

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