The former head of security for eBay who was charged with masterminding a bizarre harassment and stalking campaign against a Natick couple is abandoning his legal fight and will plead guilty in the case.
Jim Baugh, who traveled to Boston in 2019 to direct the campaign against Ina and David Steiner, initially pleaded innocent when he was charged in a 15-count criminal indictment along with a subordinate last year. Five other former eBay employees who worked for Baugh have already pleaded guilty.
But after US District Judge Patti Saris rejected several motions to have the charges dismissed, Baugh will change his plea to guilty and avoid a trial that had been scheduled to begin next month. Baugh does not have a deal with prosecutors in the US attorney’s office in Boston and will plead guilty to all of the charges he faced, according to two people familiar with the case.
On Tuesday, Saris set a hearing for April 25 to hear Baugh’s request, after initially scheduling the hearing for April 22.
Baugh’s lawyer, William Fick, declined to comment beyond confirming the plan to plead guilty.
The US attorney’s office declined to comment.
In January, Baugh’s lawyers argued that the charges should be thrown out because Baugh did not falsify documents as charged by the government and did not know that a federal investigation might occur when he lied to Natick police, and because some of Baugh’s actions occurred in California, not Massachusetts, where the charges were filed.
Saris rejected all of those arguments in a pair of rulings in March and April, allowing the case to go to trial before a jury that was scheduled to begin at the end of May.
Saris also rejected Baugh’s effort to force the government to turn over records of his service as a US government agent involved in clandestine activities. The government never confirmed that Baugh had worked in such a capacity, and Saris ruled that the matter was irrelevant to the eBay case.
The case arose in 2019 after eBay’s then-chief executive, Devin Wenig, grew angry about coverage of the company in an online newsletter called EcommerceBytes run by Ina and David Steiner out of their house in Natick. (Wenig has said he did not know about or approve of the harassment of the Steiners.)
Following Wenig’s complaints, Baugh ordered his staff to harass and threaten the Steiners, according to the federal charges against him. They sent the Steiners a series of bizarre deliveries including live spiders, a funeral wreath, and a 4 a.m. pizza. In August 2019, Baugh and several of his staff traveled to Boston where they stayed at the Ritz Carlton Hotel and conducted surveillance of the Steiners using rented vehicles. Natick police quickly linked the acts back to eBay, triggering an FBI investigation.
In 2020, the US attorney’s office charged Baugh, eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, and David Harville, the former director of global resiliency who worked for Baugh, with 15 counts of cyberstalking and witness tampering.
Harville’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Aaron Pressman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ampressman.