This is the hot, molten core of this whole matter: Did Childs' withholding of the passwords deny computing services to an authorized user? The defense's argument is that there was no failure of the network, no computers or computing resources were denied to any user, and the network continued to operate normally throughout the 12-day period that Childs refused to divulge the passwords. No "authorized users" were prevented from using the network. The prosecution does not dispute this point. (Also, if you want to argue that Childs' superiors were "authorized users," recall that he was asked for the passwords in the presence of a police inspector and a handful of other people, some of whom were on a speakerphone. Were they all "authorized users"?)
Nowhere in the statute and definition of terms do the words "administrator," "administrative," or "management" appear -- there is no distinction, no definition, no mention of these terms or concepts whatsoever. The definition of "computer services" is "includes, but is not limited to, computer time, data processing, or storage functions, or other uses of a computer, computer system, or computer network." The judge interprets that to mean administrative functions as well as "normal" use.
The judge is very clear on his opinion here, stating, "the defendant's withholding the passwords caused DTIS [the San Francisco IT department] to be denied administrative access to the FiberWAN [the city and county's backbone network], which constituted a denial of computer services." He apparently believes that Childs is guilty of violating the statute. Therein lies the problem.
Let's look at a hypothetical: An IT employee with administrative access is confronted by the vice president of marketing. The VP demands that the IT employee divulge the administrative passwords to the VP, as the VP is the IT employee's superior. If the IT employee does not give up the information, he would technically be in violation of the statue as interpreted by McCarthy, as "user" and "administrator" are taken as synonyms. It might also seem that any non-IT employee -- even non-managers -- could request the administrative-level passwords from an IT employee and expect to receive that information. The failure of the IT employee to divulge that information would also be in violation of McCarthy's apparent interpretation of the "denial of service" statue, as there is no provision for levels of access or security in that statute.
Yes, I'm splitting hairs here, but so does the decision, where the Merriam-Webster definition of "use" is referenced: "The noun 'use' is defined as 'the privilege or benefit of using something ... the ability and power to use something ... the legal enjoyment of property that consists in its employment, occupation, exercise, or practice."