Amidst flurry of problems, Xbox modding trial dropped

Posted by Mike Luttrell

Matthew Crippen is a free man. After just minutes of a court case into his Xbox modding business, the prosecution has agreed to completely drop the case.

But it's not really all charity. This move came only after the judge presiding over the trial took a half hour to rip the prosecution apart, accusing its witnesses of breaking the law, saying it completely 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:

* 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

After the judge's tirade, prosecutors called for a recess. When they returned, they decided to completely drop 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.