Following months of sensational headlines, the HP spy scandal could fizzle out with California state prosecutors offering the accused misdemeanour plea bargains.
According to The Register, the five people charged – including former HP chairman Patricia Dunn and former ethics director Kevin Hunsacker – have been offered an easy way out. The other three accused are private investigators Bryan Wagner, Ron DeLia and Matt DePante.
The accused, says the report, can plead guilty to a single misdemeanor charge rather than going to court over four felony charges.
The charges arose from investigations into how the company obtained the phone records of HP board members, employees and certain journalists.
While the California attorney general's office may be taking a softer approach, federal prosecutors last week advanced their case when they plea bargained with Wagner over felony conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges. Wagner is now aiding them in their investigation.
The involvement of federal prosecutors could make the defendants reluctant to plead even to misdemeanour charges, The Register says, given California's double jeopardy provisions.
Under the misdemeanour charges, the defendants could face one year in jail and a $5 000 fine, although a prison term would be unlikely.