Jacquette gets 22 months

Christopher Jacquette was sentenced Thursday to 22 months’ imprisonment for his actions in the Florida A&M University grade change scandal.

U.S. Attorney Thomas F. Kirwin announced the sentence of Jacquette, 29, of Tallahassee, for aggravated identity theft, unauthorized access of a protected computer, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and unauthorized access of a computer.

On Dec. 2, 2008, Jacquette entered a guilty plea to the indictment alleging that he had conspired with fellow FAMU students Lawrence Secrease, 22, and Marcus Barrington, 23, to hack into the FAMU computer system for the purpose of making hundreds of unauthorized grade changes and changes to the residency statuses of multiple students attending the university.

Evidence proffered in support of Jacquette’s plea established that in the course of a three month period between July and October 2007, Jacquette and his codefendants caused the grades of approximately 90 FAMU students to be changed, effecting changes in approximately 650 grades overall. 

The grade changes increased the grade point averages of the majority of students whose grades were changed, which in turn, made these students eligible for financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, and loans to which these students would not otherwise have been entitled. 

Jacquette and his co-conspirators were paid fees up to $600 for some of the unauthorized changes.  The conspirators were able to access the FAMU computer system by covertly installing keystroke loggers on computers used by employees of the registrar’s office. 

The keystroke loggers enabled the conspirators to obtain the secure user names and passwords of FAMU registrar’s office employees to access the FAMU computer system to make both grade and residency changes.  After learning that FAMU had reversed the unauthorized grade changes, the conspirators accessed the computer system multiple times to change their grades back, once again improving students’ GPAs and changing failing grades to passing ones.

On April 14, 2009, at a sentencing hearing held before Judge Stephan P. Mickle in United States District Court in Tallahassee, Jacquette was sentenced to a 22-month imprisonment and three years of supervised release.  In pronouncing sentencing, Judge Mickle emphasized the harm defendants’ actions had done to the reputation of the university, as well as to those students past and present, which had worked to earn their grades and diplomas legitimately. 

Assistant United States Attorney Eric K. Mountin prosecuted the case.