SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – California’s attorney general filed criminal charges Wednesday against former Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairwoman Patricia Dunn and four others involved in the corporate spying scandal at the computer and printer company.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed the charges in Santa Clara County Superior Court naming Dunn, ousted HP chief ethics officer Kevin Hunsaker, private investigator Ronald DeLia, and outside investigators Joseph DePante of Melbourne, Fla. and Bryan Wagner of Littleton, Colo.

They each face four felony counts: use of false or fraudulent pretenses to obtain confidential information from a public utility; unauthorized access to computer data; identity theft; and conspiracy to commit each of those crimes. Each charge carries a fine of up to $10,000 and three years in prison.

HP CEO Mark Hurd is not among those charged, nor was HP’s former General Counsel Ann Baskins, who had some oversight of the company’s investigation of media leaks.

The scandal erupted last month when HP disclosed that detectives it hired to root out a series of boardroom leaks secretly obtained detailed phone logs of directors, employees and journalists. The detectives used a potentially criminal form of subterfuge known as pretexting to masquerade as their targets and trick telephone companies into turning over the records.

“I am innocent of these charges,” DeLia said in a prepared statement he read to The Associated Press. “I’ve been a professional private investigator for more than 30 years. I respect the law and I did not break the law in the HP investigation.”

He refused to elaborate on his statement or take questions.

Dunn – who initiated the investigation – said she didn’t know until after the fact that the detectives went to such extremes to unearth clues about the leaker’s identity. She resigned from HP’s board last month amid the uproar over the spying campaign, which has also prompted the resignation of two other board members.

Dunn, 53, who has survived breast cancer and melanoma, will begin chemotherapy treatments for advanced ovarian cancer on Friday at the University of California, San Francisco, according to a person close to Dunn who asked to remain anonymous because a formal announcement wasn’t planned.

Lockyer scheduled a 7 p.m. EDT news conference in Sacramento to discuss the case. Lawyers for Dunn and the others charged did not return calls seeking comment.

HP said in a statement it is cooperating with Lockyer as well as federal authorities who are also exploring possible criminal charges. The Palo Alto-based company declined further comment.

HP’s stock has largely been immune to the scandal swirling around its board, and Wednesday was no exception. It rose 60 cents, or 1.6 percent, to close at $38.02 on the New York Stock Exchange. Earlier in the day it reached a 52-week high of $38.14.

The criminal case against Dunn and the others may be difficult to prove if they can show they were simply relying on legal opinions assuring them HP’s tactics were legal, said Jamie Wareham, a Washington, D.C. defense lawyer specializing in corporate law.

“It was a stupid and unethical thing that occurred, but it may not have been a crime,” he said.

Wareham questioned whether Lockyer rushed the charges to generate publicity in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 7 election. Lockyer, a Democrat, is running for state treasurer.

“He formed a judgment that a crime was committed way too early, but he had nothing to lose,” Wareham said. “Normally you would want to take more time to understand the defense’s position in the case so you don’t get egg in your face or waste taxpayer money.”

Hunsaker, who directed the investigation, left the company on Sept. 26; DeLia runs a Boston-area detective firm called Security Outsourcing Solutions, a longtime HP contractor commissioned to conduct the leak probe.

DeLia in turn hired DePante’s company to gather information, and DePante hired Wagner to obtain the private phone records of HP directors and journalists.

HP eventually identified director George Keyworth II as the source of a leak to a CNET Networks Inc. reporter. Keyworth resigned after the scandal went public in early September.

Another director, venture capitalist Thomas J. Perkins, resigned from the board in May after learning about the tactics used by HP’s investigators. He then pressured the company to publicly disclose the reason for his departure, leading to the regulatory filing that revealed the investigators’ use of pretexting.

The FBI and a congressional panel are also looking into the HP pretexting scandal. Dunn testified last week before the panel, saying she didn’t know about any potentially illegal tactics used in the investigation and wasn’t responsible for the probe.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Lockyer’s move “indicates that prosecutors are beginning to move forward to address the violations that occurred here.”

Still, Markey added, congressional action is needed to tighten the penalties on pretexting. A bill, approved earlier by the committee, has been stalled in the House.

“We need to pursue a new direction in this country that ensures consumers will no longer be vulnerable to intrusions into their families’ privacy, either by their employer, by the government or by criminals seeking to turn information into money,” he said.

AP Business Writers Michael Liedtke in San Francisco, Brian Bergstein in Boston and Marcy Gordon in Washington contributed to this report.

AP-ES-10-04-06 1851EDT

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