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United States v. Rodriguez

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

December 27, 2010, Decided; December 27, 2010, Filed

No. 09-15265


 [*1260]  PRYOR, Circuit Judge:

The main issue in this appeal is whether the prying by a former bureaucrat is criminal: that is, whether the defendant violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which prohibits "intentionally access[ing] a computer without authorization or exceed[ing] authorized access, and thereby obtain[ing] . . . information from any department or agency of the United States." 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)(B). Roberto Rodriguez, a former employee of the Social Security Administration, appeals his conviction for violating the Act on the grounds that he did not exceed his authorized access to his former employer's databases and that he  [**2] did not use the information to further another crime or to gain financially. The Administration prohibits accessing information on its databases for nonbusiness reasons, and Rodriguez at trial admitted that he accessed information for nonbusiness reasons when he obtained personal identifying information, such as birth dates and home addresses, of 17 persons he knew or their relatives. Rodriguez also appeals his sentence of 12 months of imprisonment on the ground that it is unreasonable. Because the record establishes that Rodriguez exceeded his authorized access and the Act does not require proof that Rodriguez used the information to further another crime or to gain financially, we AFFIRM his conviction. We also conclude that Rodriguez's sentence is reasonable.


From 1995 to 2009, Roberto Rodriguez worked as a TeleService representative for the Social Security Administration. Rodriguez's duties included answering questions of the general public about social security benefits over the telephone. As a part of his duties, Rodriguez had access to Administration databases that contained sensitive personal information, including any person's social security number, address, date  [**3] of birth, father's name, mother's maiden name, amount and type of social security benefit received, and annual income.

The Administration established a policy that prohibits an employee from obtaining information from its databases without a business reason. The Administration informed its TeleService employees about its policy through mandatory training sessions, notices posted in the office, and a banner that appeared on every computer screen daily. The Administration also required TeleService employees annually to sign acknowledgment forms after receiving the policies in writing. The Administration warned employees that they faced criminal penalties if they violated policies on unauthorized use of databases. From 2006 to 2008, Rodriguez refused to sign the acknowledgment forms. He asked a supervisor rhetorically, "Why give the government rope to hang me?" To monitor access and prevent unauthorized use, the Administration issued unique personal identification numbers and passwords to each TeleService employee and reviewed usage of the databases.

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628 F.3d 1258 *; 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 26203 **; 22 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 1614

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, versus ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

Subsequent History: US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Rodriguez v. United States, 179 L. Ed. 2d 946, 2011 U.S. LEXIS 3213 (U.S., Apr. 25, 2011)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. D. C. Docket No. 09-60083-CR-WJZ.


sentence, personal information, accessed, district court, databases, guidelines, authorization, imprisonment, nonbusiness, reasons, unauthorized, variance, upward, factors, argues, email, exceeded

Criminal Law & Procedure, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, General Overview, Appeals, Abuse of Discretion, Sentencing, Proportionality & Reasonableness Review, Computer & Internet Law, Criminal Offenses, Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, Fraud, Computer Fraud, Elements, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Penalties, Trials, Burdens of Proof, Evidence, Allocation, Imposition of Sentence, Factors, Sentencing Guidelines, Ranges, Adjustments & Enhancements, Departures From Guidelines, Judicial Discretion