The 2010 Pahrump Valley High School senior who stole the title of salutatorian from a fellow student by hacking into the Nye County School District’s computers and changing his grades is returning to his alma mater.
A judge ordered Tyler M. Coyner to address a student assembly sometime during his probation.
In his graduation speech, Coyner spoke of his bright future and thanked his teachers and his classmates’ parents – the video is still on YouTube.com. This time Coyner will tell students about the consequences of how he broke the law and how it affected his life.
District Judge Kimberly Wanker on Monday ordered the punishment as part of Coyner’s sentence for unlawful use of or access to a computer, a felony. He also was ordered to pay $3,167 in restitution to the school district and $300 to Walmart for a stolen television, which led to his arrest in the first place. He’ll have to perform 200 hours of community service, get a mental health evaluation and check in with a probation officer regularly over the next few years. Also, he must get permission to use a computer during his probation.
Coyner agreed to plead guilty earlier this year in exchange for probation. He had faced up to 32 months in prison if convicted.
Coyner was the ringleader in a grade-changing scheme that netted 13 suspects, many of them juveniles. He used a key-logging program to get the password to the district’s computers, which gave him access to the system where grades were recorded.
He supposedly made small changes in his grades going back several years. As an honors student, his grades already were high but he required additional points to be named salutatorian.
His attorney Frank Cremen told the judge that Coyner already had faced serious consequences for his actions.
“He was given a scholarship to the University of Nevada, Reno, which he attended,” Cremen said. “He did extremely well and when this event was discovered, he was arrested at the college campus. He was returned to Pahrump. That occurred in May 2011. He lost his scholarship as a result of this and all of his grades were invalidated by the school.”
Since his arrest, Coyner has been a student at Great Basin College. “He’s not working at the moment but he is attending school full time,” the attorney told the judge. “You have a letter from a member of the faculty at Great Basin College, the junior college where he is attending and doing very well there.”
Coyner apologized and said he’s worked hard to become a better member of the community. “I would like to say that I’ve had a lot of time to think about my actions and I am really sorry for what I did.”
Still, Wanker wanted to deliver a forceful message to Coyner. She even had the young man and his attorney sit in the courtroom before his case was called so that he could witness firsthand what the judge does to defendants who violate probation. She hoped Coyner got the message.
“You’re a bright young man who made a very stupid mistake,” Wanker said. “You violate your probation and … I will revoke it and will impose the sentence.”
Nye County prosecutor Michael Vieta-Kabell got in on the lesson, too.
“We all do stupid stuff when we’re young, but most of us never hit this magnitude,” Vieta-Kabell said. “We’ve put him down in this hole with a felony, we’ve given him the opportunity to work his way out of it. The ball is in his court.”
Cremen argued against keeping Coyner off the computer, claiming that as a college student he needed the access.
“I’m leaving it up to the discretion of his probation officer,” Wanker said. “That’s the consequence for doing this.”