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Report: HP former chair offered plea to avoid felony

A pair of reports from the Associated Press and today's San Jose Mercury News say that HP's former chairman Patricia Dunn can get a way to ensure she won't be judged a felon — but only if she changes her plea to guilty.

The California criminal charges against Dunn, as well as former HP ethics chief Kevin Hunsaker and two others, are fraudulent wire communications, wrongful use of computer data, identity theft and conspiracy. All the defendants entered not guilty pleas in October, when they were indicted for their alleged participation in corporate spying on reporters, board members and family members of the press.

The deal on the table, from California's new Attorney General Jerry Brown, would make Dunn and Hunsaker plead guilty to one misdemeanor each, according to the published reports. The AP reported that Stephen Naratil, the lawyer for Bryan Wagner —the low-level investigator on HP's boardroom probe who's already turned state's evidence on the case — said the plea bargain is on the table.

HP has already paid the state of California $14.5 million in a fine to stop civil litigation. The monies  will help fund state investigation of more corporate privacy violations.

The four defendants, including the two former HP executives, made a settlement talk appearance on Wednesday. They are scheduled to appear in court again Feb. 28 to set dates for preliminary hearings.

Both the lawyer for Dunn and the lawyer for Hunsaker have said their clients won't accept any plea bargains in the case.