Charges dropped against men who broke into Iowa courthouses

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Charges were dropped Thursday against two cybersecurity workers who were arrested after breaking into an Iowa courthouse in September as part of a security test conducted by state court administrators.

Court records show that a judge entered a dismissal order for Justin Wynn, 29, of Naples, Florida, and Gary Demercurio, 43, of Seattle.

Both work for Westminster, Colorado-based cybersecurity company Coalfire. The company contracted with state court officials to conduct security tests at Iowa courthouses and the state court building. The tests were designed to ensure that the court's highly sensitive data was secured against attack.

Wynn and Demercurio were caught inside the Dallas County Courthouse in Adel early on Sept. 11. Officers initially responding were about to release the men after confirming they were fulfilling a state contract but Dallas County Sheriff Chad Leonard arrived and insisted they be jailed.

They were initially charged with felony burglary, but it was reduced to a simple misdemeanor trespass charge in October. A hearing on a motion to dismiss was scheduled for next week.

Matthew Lindholm, the lawyer for Wynn and Demercurio, said the men are relieved that the charges were dismissed but frustrated that their reputations were damaged.

“The justice system ceases to serve its crucial function and loses credibility when criminal accusations are used to advance personal or political agendas,” he said, referring to the turf battle between the state, which operates courts, and the counties, which own the court buildings.

“Unfortunately, the lack of communication between government entities, an ignorance of the law, personal pride and politics overrode the objective investigation conducted by responding law enforcement,” he said.

When asked if they might sue for damages, Lindholm said they are considering their options.

Dallas County Attorney Charles Sinnard released a joint statement with Coalfire that said “the long-term interests of justice and protection of the public are not best served by continued prosecution of the trespass charges.”

In October, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an order prohibiting physical break-ins at courthouses or entry to such buildings outside of regular business hours by cybersecurity testers.

Court administrators are now required to confer with local officials on systems testing, all contracts are to be reviewed by a lawyer and the court administrator are to personally approve contracts with input from building security, sheriffs and others.

During the testing, the men had also entered the Polk County Courthouse in Des Moines and the state judicial branch building, which houses the Iowa Supreme Court, without being detected.

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