(Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Friday threw out the conviction of a man accused of stealing the personal data of about 120,000 Apple Inc iPad users, including big-city mayors, a TV network news anchor and a Hollywood movie mogul.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the November 2012 conviction of Andrew Auernheimer by a jury in Newark, New Jersey, and the resulting 41-month prison sentence, could not stand because the case did not belong in that state to begin with.
Auernheimer had been convicted of one count of conspiracy to access AT&T Inc servers without permission and one count of identity theft.
“The improper venue here - far from where he performed any of his allegedly criminal acts - denied Auernheimer’s substantial right to be tried in the place where his alleged crime was committed,” Circuit Judge Michael Chagares wrote for a unanimous three-judge 3rd Circuit panel.
It was not immediately clear how the decision might affect Daniel Spitler, a co-defendant who pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to three years probation in January.
The office of U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman in New Jersey, which prosecuted the case, had no immediate comment. Lawyers for Auernheimer did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Spitler’s lawyer did not immediately respond to similar requests.
Prosecutors said people affected by the defendants’ activities included ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein, among others.
The appeal is Auernheimer v. U.S., 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-1816.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis