Wired.com reports that federal authorities said Thursday they are reducing the criminal charges levied against Kevin Cogill, the Los Angeles man accused of uploading nine pre-leased GUNS N' ROSES tracks from the band's long-awaited "Chinese Democracy" album.
Los Angeles federal prosecutor Craig Missakian declined to say why the U.S. attorney's office has changed the charges from a felony to misdemeanor, a move limiting Cogill's maximum prison exposure from five years to one.
Cogill's attorney, David Kaloyanides, said prosecutors "decided that a misdemeanor was more appropriate."
Cogill, a 27-year-old blogger known as "Skewrl" who uploaded nine tracks from the forever-in-the-works LP on his Antiquiet web site in June, was arrested on August 27.
Cogill was charged under a three-year-old federal anti-piracy law that makes it a felony to distribute a copyrighted work on computer networks before its release. He was released on $10,000 bail.
Ex-GUNS N' ROSES and current VELVET REVOLVER lead guitarist Slash slammed Cogill in a recent interview, telling the Los Angeles Times, "I hope he rots in jail. It's going to affect the sales of the record, and it's not fair. The Internet is what it is, and you have to deal with it accordingly, but I think if someone goes and steals something, it's theft."
Assistant U.S. attorney Craig Missakian, who pursued the case with the FBI and recording industry, said, "In the past, these may have been viewed as victimless crimes. But in reality, there's significant damage."
Cogill posted the songs at a web site called Antiquiet, where they were available for public access. The site crashed from the amount of traffic it received once word of the leaked tracks got out. Cogill took them down again after he was contacted by representatives of GUNS N' ROSES.
The tracks were allegedly taken from the band's yet-to-be-released "Chinese Democracy" album. Cogill, who used to work in distribution for the group's record label, says he received them from an anonymous source.
GUNS N' ROSES issued a statement saying, "Though we don't support this guy's actions at that level, our interest is in the original source. We can't comment publicly at this time as the investigation is ongoing."
Kevin Cogill spoke to Sky News's Martin Stanford in June 2008 for a three-and-a-half-minute report which can be viewed below.