Alleged LinkedIn Hacker's Trial Delayed Again Over Pandemic

By Cara Salvatore
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Law360 (April 28, 2020, 11:36 PM EDT) -- A Russian man accused of hacking three tech companies, including LinkedIn and Dropbox, had his criminal trial paused again until June 1 after jurors and witnesses expressed concern about showing up to the courtroom amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Yevgeniy Nikulin's trial in California federal court on hacking-related charges began March 9 but was paused March 18 because of the pandemic, and since April 9 it had been set to restart May 4. On Tuesday evening, U.S. District Judge William Alsup granted the roughly one-month delay.

The parties had been in the midst of arguing over whether video depositions would be constitutional testimony when the trial resumed. Nikulin's counsel urged Judge Alsup on Monday not to grant prosecutors' requested deposition questioning of two witnesses regarded as high risk because of underlying health conditions: Ganesh Krishnan, a former LinkedIn employee who led its security response to the hack, and federal investigator Emily Odom, who is set to testify about a co-conspirator's ties to Nikulin.

Nikulin said that remote testimony would violate his Sixth Amendment confrontation right.

Nikulin was indicted on charges linked to using stolen identities in 2012 to hack databases owned by LinkedIn, Dropbox and now-defunct social media questionnaire site Formspring. Prosecutors say he may have exposed up to 100 million users' data. Nikulin pled not guilty in March 2018 after he was extradited from Prague to the U.S. against the wishes of Russia, which wanted to prosecute him for separate allegations.

Nine of the 14 jurors and alternates, including a doctor, recently expressed concern with resuming the trial, citing age, underlying conditions and contact with high-risk family members. The jurors were responding to a questionnaire about their health, commitments and appetite for resuming in the midst of the pandemic; it was proposed by the lawyers and approved by Judge Alsup.

Several jurors said they themselves were at high risk or lived with family members at high risk. One relies heavily on lip reading and reported they would have trouble understanding people wearing masks during the trial.

Representatives for the parties were not immediately available for comment.

The government is represented by Michelle Kane of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California.

Nikulin is represented by Adam Gasner of Law Office of Adam G. Gasner and Valery Nechay of Law Office of Valery Nechay.

The case is U.S. v. Yevgeniy Aleksandrovich Nikulin, case number 3:16-cr-00440, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

--Additional reporting by Hailey Konnath, Dave Simpson and Jack Queen. Editing bu Breda Lund.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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3:16-cr-00440

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California Northern

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October 20, 2016

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