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Alleged eBay hacker wants lawyer back

The case takes another odd turn as Jerome Heckenkamp decides not to fire his lawyer, just hours after dismissing her.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--The case of the alleged eBay hacker took another plot twist Wednesday afternoon when the former Los Alamos National Laboratory employee asked to have his lawyer back just hours after dismissing her.

In the past week, Jerome T. Heckenkamp--accused of breaking into the computer networks of eBay, Exodus Communications and other companies--has filed to put himself back into federal custody, asked to dismiss his attorney, noted cyber lawyer Jennifer Granick, and now has requested that she be allowed to represent him once more.

"We've had a change in circumstance again," U.S. District Judge Patricia V. Trumbull said dryly, when Heckenkamp, 22, returned to the front of the courtroom after a three-hour recess.

Standing in the U.S. District Court of Northern California in the orange and gray togs of the Santa Clara County Department of Corrections, Heckenkamp said he had decided that he could work with Granick after all.

"We can both play an active role in my case," he said. "If I can have an active role as I want, then we can work together."

Granick, the clinical director at Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society, wasn't present at the afternoon hearing, but said in an e-mail that she and Heckenkamp plan to work as a team.

"He realized that his lawyer will present his best defense more effectively than he'd be able to do alone," she said.

Heckenkamp has been charged with seven counts of accessing computers without authorization and eight counts of intercepting computer communications. The charges stem from intrusions by a hacker known as MagicFX into the networks at eBay, Exodus Communications, Juniper Networks, Lycos, E*Trade and Cygnus throughout 1999, according to an indictment filed in December 2000.

The indictment claims that Heckenkamp is MagicFX.

In addition to the 15 charges, the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of California charged Heckenkamp with witness tampering. Heckenkamp has also been indicted by the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of California in San Diego on 10 additional charges of computer intrusion.

The separate charges in two venues have complicated Heckenkamp's defense. The $50,000 bail posted by a friend covers his release in both venues, but even if Heckenkamp gets Judge Trumbull's release of the money, he will have to repeat the efforts in San Diego as well.

Heckenkamp's change of mind derailed his efforts to talk his way to freedom without bail. The arguments on the issue, slated for that afternoon, got pushed back to the next morning, when his reinstated attorney could once again be present.