The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

« Previous Post | Technology Home | Next Post »

Michigan man faces felony charges, 5 years in prison, for reading wife's e-mail

December 29, 2010 |  7:43 pm


A Michigan man is facing felony charges for reading his wife's e-mail, which tipped him off to her cheating on him.

Leon Walker, if convicted, could spend as much as five years in prison under a "computer misuse" statute that is generally used to prosecute crimes of identity theft and insider trading, according to a  Times wire report.

The 33-year-old used his wife's Google Gmail account password to log into her e-mail on a laptop the couple shared in their home in the city of Rochester Hills. Walker's trial begins on Feb. 7, the report said.

After Walker found out about his wife's infidelity, his wife, Clara Walker, filed for a divorce, which was finalized this month. However, the two still live together, the wire report said.

In an article from the Oakland Press, a Pontiac, Mich., newspaper, Walker said his now-ex-wife had given him her e-mail password before.

He also told the Oakland Press that he logged into his wife's Google Gmail account last year "because he was concerned that she was exposing their young daughter to her physically abusive former husband."

Walker called the case a "miscarriage of justice" but Oakland County prosecutors say the charges under the statute are justified, the wire report said.

Tom McMillin, A Michigan state representative whose district includes Rochester Hills, criticized the charges as a waste of a significant amount of taxpayer dollars, according to the Oakland Press.

Frederick Lane, a Vermont attorney who has published five books on electronic privacy, said the case was the first time the anti-hacking statute had been applied to a domestic matter.

"It's going to be interesting because there are no clear legal answers here," Lane said, according to the wire reports. "I would guess there is enough gray area to suggest that she could not have an absolute expectation of privacy."

Two things might help Walker in the case -- he and his ex-wife still live in the same house and he had routine access to the laptop he used to get into his wife's e-mail, Lane said.

About 45% of divorces involve some snooping and gathering of information via e-mail, Facebook and websites and Internet services, Lane said.


Apple, mobile and social media will be cybercrime targets in 2011, McAfee says

Google refuses Connecticut's request for Street View data collected from unsecured wireless networks

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: In this photo taken Dec. 22, Leon Walker, 33, stands next to the swing set he built for his 3-year-old daughter, Lailana Walker, outside his Rochester Hills, Mich., home. Walker, who says he learned of his wife's affair by reading her e-mail on their computer, faces trial Feb. 7 on felony computer misuse charges. Credit: Kimberly P. Mitchell of the Detroit Free Press/AP