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Sloppy Xbox modding case dismissed by government attorneys

But it's not really all charity. This move came only after the judge presiding over the trial took a half hourto rip the prosecution apart, accusing its witnesses of breaking the law, saying it misled the jury, and criticizing it for other pre-trial decisions.

"The government has decided to dismiss the indictment," said lead prosecutor Allen Chiu in a statement to the judge. The prosecution said the decision was made "based on fairness and justice,"reports Wired.

Outside the courtroom, Crippen was quoted as saying, "It still has not hit me yet."

Judge Philip Gutierrez took a big chunk of time yesterday, after the prosecution's opening statement, to slam its seemingly unethical and unlawful proceedings. He specifically noted:

  • Akey 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 -Witness Tony Rosario claimed that Crippen inserted a pirated game into a modded Xbox, but this information was not disclosed in Rosario's reports or sworn declarations.
  • 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 very different.
  • There has been no offer of a plea deal, or "middle ground," to the defendant.

After the judge's tirade, prosecutors called for a recess. When they returned, they dropped the case.

It's a big deal for the video game industry. This case was the first of its kind, as no one had ever gone on trial simply for modding a game console before. Crippen could have faced as much as three years behind bars.

Though Crippen is now free, as far as we understand, a modding precedent has not been set. But based on one of the judge's comments during the trial, which seemed to favor a Fair Use argument despite several flip-flops on the subject, things look good for tinkerers:

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

Crippen will now pursue his goal of becoming a high school special-education and math teacher, which would not have been possible had he received a felony conviction. Regardless of any opinion about the legality of circumventing piracy controls, it's rather silly to us that a seemingly decent person, who may not have known he was breaking the law (if he indeed was), was in danger of jail time and the loss of an awfully noble-sounding dream for messing around with the inside bits of Xboxes.


Dec 3, 2010