Xbox trial goes on hold after fiery start

Posted by Mike Luttrell

It's a rocky start for the 28-year-old dude on trial for charging people to mod their Xbox 360s. Just minutes into the case, the judge began tearing into the prosecution, saying its opening remarks were harmful if not illegal, and completely misled the jury away from facts that are open to interpretation.

And remember, the prosecution in this case is the government.

It's the case of Matthew Crippen, who would install modded chips into Xbox 360 systems for a fee. He has been charged with violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which makes it illegal to override copy-protection systems in consumer electronics.

US District Judge Philip Gutierrez totally ripped into prosecutors, saying claims they made are directly opposed to what is written in the law, noted that at least half of the government's witnesses engaged in potentially unlawful conduct related to the case, and then slammed them for not realizing how serious he was being, according to an account from Wired.

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 very 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, people.

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 even continue on with the case, or offer some sort of deal to Crippen.

It all highlights just how important this case is, and that there has never been any other trial like it before. Gutierrez himself made a mistake on the bench.

Before the trial was officially underway, he said it was okay for the defense to argue "Fair Use" as a defense. He then backtracked and said a DMCA case was not eligible for such a defense, but then yesterday sort of said it should be.

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