When former Varian engineer Wayne Cox reached out his driver-side window to push the dying Oralia Puga Ramirez, 75, and Enedina Oliva, 70 off the hood of his car, a 1994 Infiniti, did he have to roll down his window first or was it already open? I wonder, because that's a detail that matters — a detail that delineates between confused and calculated cruelty. You're driving along, you hit someone by accident, your window's already open, you reach out to see if the person is OK, they aren't, so you freak out and drive away — that's callous and wrong, but not calculated. Hit someone you didn't see, see they're dying, press the button to send your power window down, wait the three or four seconds for the window to sink all the way, then reach out and push two dying people from the car's hood? That's callous, wrong and calculated — criminal in a way you'd only expect from an engineer. Or least from an engineer like the nine bad guys we list below:
Eygptian civil engineer Mamdouh Hamza offered to pay a hired killer $100,000 to assassinate an Egyptian government minister and three other government officials. Hamza called his plan "the final solution." The hired killer — actually an undercover British police officer — arrested Hamza, who went to trial in 2005.
In 2006, prosecutors charged Chinese national and Canadian citizen Xiaodong Sheldon Meng with 36 felonies, including economic espionage to benefit a foreign government. Meng's crime? Stealing code his former employer, Silicon Valley-based Quantum3D uses in fighter-pilot training software. A judge sentenced Meng to 24 months earlier this summer.
In 2007, Lan Lee, 42, of Palo Alto, and Yuefei Ge, 34, a Chinese national living in San Jose also faced charges of economic espionage after prosecutors accused the pair of stealing computer chips from Mountain View-based NetLogic Microsystems with plans on selling them to the Chinese government. Their indictment alleges the pair formed a company, Sico Microsystems, in order to create new chips based on stolen designs.
In May 1995, Silicon Valley engineer Bill Gaede rushed into a New York Times office and told a reporter: "I'm a spy, and I think they're going to kill me, so I want you to know what has happened." Gaede claimed he'd stolen computer chip designs from Intel and tried to sell them to Cuba, China and Iran before the CIA got onto his case and began hunting him down. The Times reporter didn't believe it at first, but it all turned out to be true. Gaede began serving a 33-month sentence in July 1996. Richard Wade Farley goes by three names in the newspapers — never a good sign. In 1988, Farley was fired from Sunnyvale-based ESL, accused of sexual harrassment. Not long after, he returned with a shotgun. Seven of his former coworkers died. He barricaded himself in the office for six hours before police dragged him out.
In a way that reminded some of Farley's rampage, recently fired NEC Electronics employee Kenneth M. McMurray came back to his old office and forced Maria Elizabeth Lualhati, his ex-girlfriend and an associate systems programmer, into a lab where he shot her and then himself.
Aptix founder and ex-CEO Amr Mohsen faced charges of perjury, mail fraud, and obstruction of justice after prosecutors said he forged engineering notebooks in a failed attempt to sue a rival for patent infringement. When that case started to go against Mohsen, he allegedly told another inmate he wanted the judge to "disappear." The plan failed. Mohsen was sentenced to 17 years on January 5, 2007. According to AmrMohsen.com, "Amr and the family believe the 17-year punishment to be excessive."
Legendary Linux developer Hans Reiser, a hero to the open-source community, murdered his wife, Nina. He swore to his innocence almost up to the very end — until a judge agreed to reduce his sentence if he led police to her body. He eventually did. The reaction from Reiser's most ardent defenders: "Whoops."