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Angry judge puts Xbox modding trial on hold

UPDATE: The case has beendismissed by the prosecution.

The trial of a 28-year-old Xbox modding businessman began yesterday, and it's already a circus.The judge, who himself has shown some confusionwith how to proceed with this case, attacked theprosecution for what he said were completely unacceptable opening remarks which could have misled the jury, were potentially illegal, and could be damaging to the whole case.

It's the case of United States v. Matthew Crippen. Crippen installed modded chips into Xbox 360 systems for a fee, and has been charged with violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by overriding copy-protection systems in consumer electronics.

US District Judge Philip Gutierrez ripped into thegovernment'sprosecutors, saying claims they made are directly opposed to what is written in the law, and noting that at least half of the witnesses engaged in potentially unlawful conduct related to the case.

Here's a rundown of what, specifically, Gutierrez was unhappy with:

-A key piece of evidence, a video recording of Crippen modding an Xbox, may be in violation of privacy law.
-Prosecutors had kept some evidence inaccessible to Crippen's legal team.
-Lead prosecutor Allen Chiu told the jury Crippen could be found guilty even if he didn't realize what he was doing was illegal. The wording of the DMCA, however, is different.
-There has been no offer of a plea deal, or "middle ground," to the defendant.

And we're just into the first 30 minutes of the trial. Clearly this landmark case isn't being taken lightly.

After the judge's fuming, Chiu mustered up an apology, saying, "I apologize to the court." Prosecutors asked for a recess to decide if they will continue on with the case, or offer some sort of deal to Crippen.

The judge himself has been unclear on how to proceed with the case, first allowing a Fair Use argument, then backtracking, and now apparently backtracking again.

“The only way to be able to play copied games is to circumvent the technology,” Gutierrez said. “How about backup games and the homebrewed?”

Reportedly, other lawyers got wind of the judicial beatdown Gutierrez was laying down, causing dozens of spectators to peek in and watch the proceedings before the recess was called.


Dec 2, 2010