Dunn pleads not guilty as spy scandal pressure mounts

Former Hewlett-Packard chairwoman Patricia Dunn has pleaded not guilty to felony charges following the HP spying scandal which erupted earlier this year. Dunn appeared in court to deny four charges.

Meanwhile the US financial regulator the Securities and Exchange Commission has said that it will proceed with a formal investigation into the controversial HP inquiry.

Dunn was chairwoman of HP when it ordered an inquiry into leaks from its board. That inquiry, which was conducted by contractors, involved the unauthorised obtaining of board members' and journalists' emails as well as the physical surveillance of at least one journalist and attempts at the tracing of a journalist's emails.

The highly controversial activity, which prompted the immediate resignation of Silicon Valley veteran Tom Perkins from HP's board, is the subject of an escalating number of investigations. As well as the court action and SEC investigation, it has been subject of hearings by the US House Energy and Commerce Committee and a probe by the attorney general of the Northern District of California.

Dunn pleaded not guilty at the Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose this week. The Californian attorney general has taken the case, and Dunn has waived her right to a preliminary hearing with 10 days.

The charges include the commission of and conspiracy to commit a number of crimes, including using false or fraudulent pretences to obtain confidential information from a public utility, wrongful use of computer data and identity theft.

A series of contractors has also been charged in the case. They include a private detective, an information broker and an individual who is accused of obtaining private phone records.