Web magnate Jason Calcanis had no idea that his high-profile search engine, Mahalo, was a hiring a veteran computer hacker when he welcomed John Schiefer aboard months ago. But as of Wednesday, Schiefer faces 48 months in jail for felony computer crimes, and Calcanis plans to keep him on staff until he begins his sentence.
“At this moment, I’m honestly glad we didn’t know about what John did when we hired him and I’m happy we’ve kept him on board,” Calcanis wrote about his employee and now friend on his blog. “It’s taught me a lot about society, computer crime and rehabilitation. In John, I see almost every computer programmer from my time ‘hacking’ on BBSes as a kid, attending hacker conferences and hiring ‘white hat’ hackers for a living.”
A Federal District Court convicted Shiefer of building a botnet that infected 250,000 computers. Although he was sentenced on Wednesday, Schiefer was originally charged over two years ago, before Mahalo even took him on. Calcanis admits a simple Google search during the hiring process would have uncovered his criminal past, but decided to keep Schiefer on after his colleagues turned up Schiefer’s past because of a genuine belief that he had put it behind him.
“Almost all talented developers push the envelope when they’re young,” Calcanis wrote. “Anyone in technology knows this dark, dirty little secret.”
“When he comes out, I hope to be able to offer him a job and that we can work together again. Life is short, we all make mistakes and I’m glad we’ve been given the opportunity to work with someone who needs the help and guidance.”
Though Schiefer will leave the Mahalo rank and file in June, Calcanis still faces plenty of criticism for deciding to keep Schiefer on in the mean time, and for his standing offer to rehire him when he’s out.
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