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In an electronic mystery that may never be solved, a single e-mail has resulted in an Engineering senior's suspension from the University.

Peter Kim has been accused of forging an e-mail to one of his teaching assistants under the guise of another TA requesting changes to Kim's course grade, and the incident has led to a one-year suspension, which starts today.

Kim claims he is not at fault, but rather the victim of an unknown hacker motivated by jealousy or racial hatred.

In May, Michael Portnoy, one of Kim's TAs for Mathematical Foundation of Computer Science II, received an e-mail supposedly from another TA, Daniel Rudoy, requesting that Kim's grade be raised. The message originated from Kim's own computer but under Rudoy's name.

Rudoy was unavailable for comment last night, and Portnoy declined to comment.

According to Kim, the University contacted him and alleged that he sent the e-mail. A representative from the Office of Student Conduct conducted three phone interviews with Kim to determine if further action was needed.

University officials declined to discuss details of the incident.

"We don't comment on student judicial procedures," University spokeswoman Phyllis Holtzman said.

Kim claimed that someone gained remote location access to his computer through a Trojan horse application, and was responsible for the e-mails. Kim said he explained his theory to the Office of Student Conduct representative during the first phone interview.

"I was explaining how someone might have been able to do this, that the room could have been left open," Kim said.

"Throughout each [conversation] he really did not listen to me," Kim said. "He was conducting the investigation, but he was under the impression that I did it all along."

The representative, Neal Rajmaira, has since gone to work at University of California at Berkeley and could not be reached for comment.

Kim said Rajmaira told him to either admit his guilt or come up with the culprit.

During the summer, the University requested permission to examine Kim's computer, which was in storage at the time. Kim said he granted the request at first, but after discussing the matter with his parents and advisor, he decided that Penn had no right to search through his computer.

"I felt it was too one-sided anyway, and the next thing you know, I get this charge letter saying either I admit to the guilt, or take a six-term suspension," Kim said.

Kim received that letter on Aug. 2, and shortly thereafter asked for a hearing.

Kim also contacted an attorney, David Oh, for advice on how to proceed with the hearing. When Oh suggested that Kim have his computer examined by someone, Kim contacted Wuen-E Chang, a fellow information technology advisor in Harnwell College House.

The two discovered that NetBus, a program that allows a user to control a computer from a remote location, had been installed shortly before the e-mail in question was sent.

The two said they also discovered several files containing racially charged messages directed at Kim, who is of Korean descent.

According to Chang, "everything" he found on Kim's computer "seemed consistent" with Kim's story.

The two presented their findings at the hearing, but the Office of Student Conduct allegedly said their testimony was not completely trustworthy, and discounted it, noting that Kim had refused requests to examine his computer earlier.

Kim said the office gave him a one-year suspension, and although he appealed the punishment, the committee's final decision remained the same, and Kim was asked to leave his apartment in Harnwell by 5 p.m. today.

Kim said he plans to return to Penn after the suspension, and he also wants to take further action in his case.

"Why would I use my own computer to do this?" he said, pointing out that he would have known the e-mail could be traced. "That's pretty ridiculous considering how much I do know about computers."

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