Chastened Prosecutors Dismiss Xbox 360 Modding Case

A day after a judge chewed them out in open court, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles dropped their case against a man accused of running a modding business that allowed Xbox 360s to run pirated or unauthorized games.

Wired reports that Matthew Crippen, 28, is a free man, after prosecutor Allen Chiu told Judge Philip Gutierrez the indictment against him had been dismissed. The dismissal stems from the newly given testimony of an Entertainment Software Association investigator, which conflicted with his earlier reports and which the defense had not been privy to before today. That followed yesterday's angry lecturing from Gutierrez concerned that the ESA investigator's secret taping of Crippen might be a violation of California privacy law.

Crippen faced a potential 10 years in prison if he had been convicted of installing mod chips on the consoles, violations under the anti-circumvention provisions of the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Crippen's case was to have been the first ever to reach a jury; one was seated on Tuesday.

"It still has not hit me yet," Crippen told Wired outside court.

The investigator's testimony concerned Crippen himself placing a pirated video game inside the modded 360 to confirm it worked, which would have satisfied a legal test that Crippen knew he was breaking the law. Nowhere in earlier reports had the investigator said Crippen did such a thing; the prosecution said his newfound recollection came on Sunday.

Wired has much more on the details of the case and its dismissal.

Prosecutors Dismiss Xbox Modding Case Mid-Trial [Wired, thanks capeo; image via Wired]