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US government drops case against Xbox chip modder

Vital evidence was not presented properly, so prosecution withdraws

The ESA-led prosecution of an American accused of profiting from Xbox modding has been dismissed based on grounds of "fairness and justice".

The case, which was the first of its kind in the US, was adjourned yesterday when the presiding judge Philip Gutierrez asked the prosecution to prove that defendant Matthew Crippen knew he was violating piracy laws by offering the service, which allows Xboxes to run illegally pirated games.

When the case reconvened, prosecutor Allen Chiu told the court that, as ESA undercover agent Tony Rosario has covertly filmed Crippen modding an Xbox for $60, he had put a pirated game into the machine to check that the process had worked, Wired's Threat Level blog reports.

While this would have proven that Crippen was aware that the process would be for the use of illegal software, and not back-up or homebrew software, the evidence had not been formally submitted to the court in pretrial motions, rendering it inadmissible.

In fact, defence attorney Koren Bell had told the assembled jurors that the prosecution had no evidence of this kind to present at all.

After the revelation, chief prosecutor Allen Chiu called for his own case to be dismissed, admitting that the government had made errors in the preparation of its case.

Had he been convicted of the offences he was under charges for, Crippen could have faced a maximum jail term of ten years. He now plans to return to school and finish the liberal arts degree which he suspended when indicted of the crimes last year.

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