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Jury Deliberates in Computer Theft Trial

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A federal jury began deliberations Wednesday in the trial of an accused computer data thief in one of the largest federal computer theft cases.

Scott Levine, former chief executive of the bulk e-mail firm Inc., based in Boca Raton, Fla., faces 144 counts from a July 2004 indictment in what prosecutors described as one of the largest computer crime cases ever. Levine is accused of stealing 8.2 gigabytes of information from Little Rock-based Acxiom Corp., one of the world's largest database companies. The violations occurred from around April 2002 to August 2003.

The 1.6 billion records included names, home addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, bank and credit card numbers involving millions of individuals. But prosecutors determined that no identity fraud was committed. There was, however, a sale of information to a marketing company, prosecutors say.

In a four-week trial filled with high-tech testimony, both sides tried to simplify their arguments through symbolism.

Defense lawyer David Garvin pleaded Levine's innocence using an oft-quoted parable about a child saving starfish sent ashore to die by the uncontrollable tide. Prosecutor Karen Coleman countered with her own analogy.

"Scott Levine's username was Snipermail13 -- why was 13 chosen? Because that was the number of Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino," Coleman said. "And just like a quarterback leads the team, Scott Levine led the crime."

Like Coleman, Garvin attached significance to the computer name used by Levine's brother-in-law Mike Castro, one of the six Snipermail employees who pleaded guilty to acting as Levine's coconspirators in exchange for their testimony against Levine. Castro's username was Snipermail007.

Garvin said Castro thought of himself as a secret agent, a computer James Bond who could use his tech-savvy to frame Levine, a boss who once was so ill-at-ease with computers that he had to write out his e-mails by hand.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Newton asked jurors to focus on the work done on Levine's personal laptop computer, using monitors to show jurors online chats among Snipermail employees about Levine's pet project of downloading as many Acxiom files as possible. Prosecutors say Levine was using the files to start postal mail marketing campaigns and to bolster Snipermail's contact lists to make the company look more attractive for a multimillion-dollar buyout.

Jurors were to resume deliberations Thursday morning.

Associated Press

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