Sorting Facts from Fiction in the Terry Childs Case

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The Confrontation That Started the Standoff

On Friday, June 20, there was an altercation between Childs and Jeana Pieralde, the new DTIS security manager at the 1 Market Street datacenter in San Francisco. The city's court filings claimed that Childs harassed Pieralde, confronted her, and took photos of her with his cell phone. Fearing for her safety, Pieralde retreated to a room in the building, locked herself in, and called the DTIS CIO for help. The DTIS CIO then called Childs and the two had words. Childs subsequently left the premises. Why was Childs so upset? According to the city, no one had told him that Pieralde was auditing his network, and he perceived it as a threat or intrusion.

Childs disputed this interpretation of events, claiming in court documents that Pieralde was conducting clandestine searches of DTIS employee workspaces and had removed a hard drive from an office when he confronted her. He also denied taking photos of Pieralde.

What occurred over the next two weeks remains a mystery, but at some point, DTIS officials demanded that Childs relinquish the usernames and passwords used to access the FiberWAN network devices, and Childs refused to do so. He was suspended for insubordination on July 9.

In the court documents, the city stated that Childs was placed under surveillance and was arrested on the evening of July 12 as he was parking his vehicle near his home in the suburb of Pittsburg. At the time of his arrest, he was found to have $10,000 cash on his person and receipts showing that he had traveled to Sparks, Nevada, where he had looked at renting storage units. Following his arrest, police searched his house and workspaces. Police turned up 9mm and .45 caliber bullets, but apparently no weapons.

The possession of ammunition may have raised flags with the police, because 25 years ago, at the age of 17, Childs was arrested and convicted of aggravated burglary, and spent four years in a Kansas prison. In 1995, prosecutors said, Childs was again arrested in Kansas and charged with aggravated assault and carrying a concealed weapon. The case was reduced to misdemeanor weapons possession.

In addition to the bullets, police found documentation of the city network, including configurations, maps, and diagrams of the FiberWAN and possibly other networks. This was hardly surprising, considering that Childs was the lead network admin for the city and was on constant support duty for it.

Even following his arrest, Childs refused to divulge the passwords to the network. He offered to give them only to Mayor Newsom. Late on Monday, July 21, Newsom paid Childs a visit in jail, met with Childs for 15 minutes, and received the passwords. Newsom then gave this information to DTIS officials, and -- following a clarifying call to Childs -- DTIS was finally able to log into the routers and switches of the FiberWAN.

After relinquishing the passwords to Newsom, Childs' attorney filed a motion with the court for reduced bail. Considering that normal bail for a murder case is $1 million, this filing was unexpected. The motion was heard on Wednesday, July 23, and was denied. Childs would remain in jail in lieu of bail.

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