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Last Update: April 2, 2007 7:04 PM

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Using free wireless at library described as theft

PALMER: Man was tapping into library connection after hours.

WASILLA -- Brian Tanner was sitting in his Acura Integra recently outside the Palmer Library playing online games when a Palmer police pulled up behind him.

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The officer asked him what he was doing.

Tanner, 21, was using the library's wireless Internet connection. He was told that his activity constituted theft of services and was told to leave. The next day, Sunday, police spotted him there again.

"It was kind of like, 'Well gee whiz, come on,' " police Lt. Tom Remaley said.

The police officer confiscated Tanner's laptop in order to inspect what he may have been downloading, Remaley said. Remaley on Friday said he hasn't looked inside the computer yet; he's putting together a search warrant application.

Alaska state troopers had chased Tanner off a few times at other locations, Remaley said.

Tanner said that was true. He has a device on his keychain that sniffs out wireless networks. When he found one, he would park in his neighborhood and use his $800 Dell laptop to hop on the Web. But worried neighbors summoned the troopers, who told him to park in a public place.

"I went to the public library because I go there during the day," Tanner said.

Though the library was closed, its wireless was up and running, he said.

Tanner said he was upset that he hasn't gotten his computer back yet. The police have told him he won't until the case is concluded, he said.

Jeanne Novosad, the library system manager, said the wireless connection is normally shut off when the library is closed. But the library was waiting on a technician to install a timer and the connection was left on after hours for several days, she said.

Remaley said the investigating officer is talking with the District Attorney's Office to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

Remaley said few of these cases that he's seen have resulted in criminal prosecution.

But, "in this particular case you know he's feeding off something that we know the city of Palmer pays for and there are requirements to use it," Remaley said.

Either way, Tanner's Internet usage has been curtailed. He's got a home computer, but his parents don't let him on the Web after 9 p.m. He's been using computers at the library during the day.

He's a moderator on an online gaming site, conquerclub.com, where he plays a game similar to the board game Risk.

"It's pretty addicting," he said.

Contact Daily News reporter Andrew Wellner at 352-6710 or awellner@adn.com

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