The federal cyber crimes case against Wiseguy Tickets can move forward, a New Jersey district court judge announced earlier today, October 12, a decision that denies the defendants’ request to have the case dismissed.
U.S. District Court Judge Katharine S. Hayden set a trial date for the case, which is one of the most closely watched in the ticketing industry, of March 1, 2011. The trial date falls one year after federal indictments were handed down. The four defendants, Kenneth Lowson, Kristofer Kirsch, Joel Stevenson and Faisal Nahdi face multiple counts of “wire fraud; gaining unauthorized access and exceeding authorized access to computer systems; or causing damage to computers in interstate commerce,” the U.S. Attorneys’ office said at the time of the indictments.
Lowson, Kirsch and Stevenson are free on bail; Nahdi remains at-large, having fled the country just prior to the indictments. If convicted, the four could face maximum sentences of 20 years in prison or more.
Through their Las Vegas-based company, the defendants allegedly procured hundreds of thousands of event tickets from Ticketmaster and Tickets.com by using clandestine “bot” software programs that quickly and surreptitiously hacked into computer servers — bypassing online security protocols — to obtain the tickets. Prosecutors allege that Wiseguy Tickets used multiple aliases and other fraudulent means to procure more than 1.5 million tickets from 2002 to 2009, and by reselling those tickets they generated well over $25 million.
Rebekah Carmichael, spokesperson for the Northern New Jersey U.S. Attorneys’ office, which brought the case, told TicketNews that prosecutors had no comment on today’s decision. Mark Rush, attorney for Lowson and the spokesperson for the defendants, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Attorneys for the Wiseguys had argued that while the group may have allegedly violated Ticketmaster’s terms of service by using the software programs to obtain the tickets, which they paid for, they did not commit a federal crime.
Besides their attorneys, the defendants also received support in their argument from several outside forces, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and some law professors, that said that allegedly violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) was the wrong interpretation by prosecutors.
“The CFAA is aimed at blocking trespass and theft, not quashing innovation. Yet under the government’s theory, Web sites could put the power of criminal law behind their own terms of service to create severe obstacles for their competitors,” Marcia Hofmann, senior staff attorney for the EFF, said in a statement.