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United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
September 19, 2014, Argued; December 24, 2014, Decided
[*209] DIAZ, Circuit Judge:
Petitioner Robert Steele spent nine months secretly logging in to the email server of his former employer, gaining access to confidential and proprietary information related to its government contract bids. As a result, Steele was convicted for crimes under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Steele now appeals his conviction, as well as his sentence of imprisonment and restitution. We reject Steele's contentions of error and consequently affirm the judgment of the district court.
In 2007, Platinum Solutions, Inc., hired Steele as its vice president [**2] for business development and backup systems administrator. His duties gave him access to the company's server, which allowed him to monitor email accounts and employee passwords. Three years after Steele joined Platinum, the company was sold to SRA International, Inc. Steele subsequently resigned and went to work for another company, which--like Platinum and SRA--provided contract IT services to government defense agencies. During the next nine months, Steele continued to log in to SRA's server via a "backdoor" account he had used while working for Platinum [*210] and SRA, and he proceeded to access and download documents and emails related to SRA's ongoing contract bids. The FBI later determined that Steele had accessed the server almost 80,000 times.
A grand jury indicted Steele on two counts of wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 1349, and fourteen counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ("CFAA"), 18 U.S.C. § 1030.1 The district court granted a judgment of acquittal on the wire fraud charges pursuant to Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, but a jury convicted Steele on all of the CFAA charges, consisting of two misdemeanor and twelve felony counts. Steele received a prison sentence totaling 48 months, [**3] significantly less than the recommendations under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual ("U.S.S.G."). In addition, the district court ordered him to pay $50,000 in fines, $1,200 in fees, and $335,977.68 in restitution.
Steele presents four major arguments on appeal. He first contends that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of accessing a protected computer "without authorization." He further contends that his conviction should be reversed because the district court's jury instructions constructively amended the indictment by referring to the separate crime of accessing a computer in "excess of authorization." Moreover, he asserts that the enhancement of his charges to felonies under 18 U.S.C. § 1030(c)(2)(B)(ii) violated his due process rights and the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. Finally, Steele challenges his prison sentence and the order to pay restitution based on the district court's failure to properly apply the U.S.S.G. and restitution statute. We address each argument in turn.
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595 Fed. Appx. 208 *; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 24441 **; 2014 WL 7331679
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff — Appellee, v. ROBERT EDWIN STEELE, Defendant — Appellant.
Notice: PLEASE REFER TO FEDERAL RULES OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE RULE 32.1 GOVERNING THE CITATION TO UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS.
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria. (1:12-cr-00515-GBL-1). Gerald Bruce Lee, District Judge.
authorization, accessing, convicted, indictment, restitution, district court, instructions, larceny, felony, server, documents, sentence, email, calculating, contends, counts, felony enhancement, grand larceny, intangible, employees, enhanced, jeopardy, offenses, charges, exceeds, double
Computer & Internet Law, Criminal Offenses, Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, Criminal Law & Procedure, Computer Crimes, Standards of Review, Substantial Evidence, Sufficiency of Evidence, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Proof Beyond Reasonable Doubt, Business & Corporate Law, Agency Relationships, Termination, General Overview, Authority to Act, Actual Authority, Indictments, Amendments & Variances, Constructive Amendments, Accusatory Instruments, Appellate Review, De Novo Review, Appeals, Reversible Error, Charging Instruments, Variances, Classification of Offenses, Misdemeanors, Felonies, Plain Error, Theft & Related Offenses, Larceny & Theft, Elements, Abuse of Discretion, Sentencing, Restitution, Sentencing Guidelines, Adjustments & Enhancements