Man faces jail for reading wife’s e-mail

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

WASHINGTON - A man in the US faces a five-year jail term for reading his wife’s e-mail, a media report said Tuesday.

Computer technician Leon Walker from Michigan accessed his wife’s Gmail account on a laptop in their home and now faces a five-year jail term under a state law intended to prevent identity fraud, the Washington Post reported.

From her e-mail messages, he learned she was having an affair with her ex-husband — a man previously arrested for domestic violence. Walker then filed for emergency custody of his wife’s young son, the post said citing a report by the Detroit Free Press.

Walker’s soon-to-be ex-wife testified that the laptop her husband used to access the e-mail account was a private laptop, and that she was the only one who knew the password.

Leon Walker, on the other hand, said the laptop was a family computer and that his wife kept all her passwords in a little book next to the computer.

The legal question at heart here is whether or not Walker’s wife had an expectation of privacy.

Frederick Lane, a Vermont lawyer and electronic privacy expert, told the Free Press that the fact that the two still were living together, and that Leon Walker had routine access to the computer, might help him.

“I would guess there is enough gray area to suggest that she could not have an absolute expectation of privacy,” he said.

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper told the Free Press she defends her decision to charge Leon Walker.

“The guy is a hacker,” Cooper said in a voice mail response to the Free Press last week. “It was password protected, he had wonderful skills, and was highly trained. Then he downloaded them and used them in a very contentious way.”

Other lawyers in the Detroit area told the Free Press that this application of the law was ludicrous. One told the paper that if this case is applicable under the law, the state would also have to prosecute parents monitoring their children’s Facebook accounts.

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