A Michigan man faces up to five years in prison after he allegedly snooped through his wife’s e-mail to find out whether she was having an affair.
While Leon Walker, a computer technician from Rochester Hills, Michigan thought the move was harmless; prosecutors have charged him with felony misuse of a computer.
According to The Detroit Free Press, Walker, 33, had suspicions that his wife Clara was cheating on him with her previous husband, and he worried that her infidelity was affecting the safety of her young son who had witnessed her beaten by the man in the past. Last summer, he logged on to her Gmail account to find out whether his suspicions were true.
“I was doing what I had to do,” Walker told the Free Press. He said he got the password for her e-mail account from a book that his wife kept near the computer.
After realizing that his presumptions were correct, he forwarded the messages over to the child’s father—a third man whom his wife was married to first. Walker and his wife have since filed for divorce.
According to ABC News, prosecutors claim that Walker illegally hacked into his wife’s computer following her filing for divorce. Walker’s lawyers contend that the charge stems from an overzealous statute meant to protect credit card information and trade secrets, not everyday e-mail.
“People who live under the same roof, be they married or not, and who share a computer—as in this instance—they may have some personal privacy lines that they adhere to. And if they don’t, that’s between the two individuals,” Walker’s attorney, Leon Weiss told ABC News.
But Oakland County prosecutors contend that the charge brought against Walker is fitting for his actions.
“In this particular case, this is a lot like our eavesdropping statute the way it’s being applied,” an Oakland County spokesman told the AFRO in a recent interview. “For example, there are a lot of cases where we have an ongoing dispute among family members or business partners, whoever, and one of them decides to listen in to a conversation that one person is having with another person.”
He said this case is similar to “putting a wire tap or a listening device into someone’s without them knowing it’s there. We prosecute those cases pretty frequently.”
Clara Walker in preliminary testimony said that Walker had purchased the laptop for her, but that it was hers alone. She added that all its passwords were kept secret.
An electronic expert told the Free Press that Walker’s case lies in a legal grey area and, if he can prove that the computer was shared, it might help his case.
The Oakland County Prosecutors spokesman explained that while Walker faces up to five years if convicted, he most likely will receive probation.
“It’s up to a maximum of five years felony. That doesn’t mean that’s what he would get, but in all likelihood, he would get straight probation,” the spokesman said. “Everyone likes to quote the maximum, but it’s very rare that anyone gets it.”
Walker’s case is set to go to trial on Feb. 7.