A 17-year-old Montana youth accused of destroying files on The Herald Journal's computer site has pleaded not guilty.
Riley B. Hassell of Bozeman was charged with unlawful use of a computer, two counts of burglary and two counts of theft in Montana's Gallatin County District Court late last week.Hassell is accused of infiltrating the computer system of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle newspaper in Montana, which is owned by the same company as The Herald Journal in Logan.
He also is accused of placing a depiction of a skeletal hand on the Daily Chronicle's Web site, which is linked to The Herald Journal's. About one-third of the files in The Herald Journal's Web site were destroyed, along with about a third of the Bozeman newspaper's files. Most of The Herald Journal's lost files were classified advertisements.
The destroyed files weren't immediately noticed by Herald Journal employees, but for about two weeks the newspaper received calls complaining the ads weren't current. However, all of the files were saved on a hard drive as well as a computer server in Bozeman and were easily replaced.
Bozeman police arrested Hassell after receiving tips from confidential informants, according to court documents. He also allegedly told police he had broken into the Daily Chronicle's computer system on Jan. 12 and placed the skeletal hand that appeared when a user attempted to reach the Web page.
There was also a message next to the hand that read, "I hate your newspaper."
If convicted, Hassell could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined up to $5,000.