A Michigan man is facing five years in prison after police say he logged into his wife’s Gmail account without her permission with the intention of spying on her.
33-year-old Leon Walker is charged with a felony ‘hacking’ count following the incident, during which he discovered his wife had been unfaithful to him. Although evidence gathering using social networking in a divorce is becoming far more common, the Walker case is of particular note because experts say it could establish legal precedent for email privacy standards in a domestic setting:
“It’s going to be interesting because there are no clear legal answers here,” said Frederick Lane, a Vermont attorney and nationally recognized expert who has published five books on electronic privacy. The fact that the two still were living together, and that Leon Walker had routine access to the computer, may help him, Lane said.
“I would guess there is enough gray area to suggest that she could not have an absolute expectation of privacy,” he said.
Walker, a computer technician, said he discovered his wife had been sleeping with her second husband, and turned the information over to her first husband due to concerns about previous incidents involving domestic violence. His defense attorney questioned the necessity of the charges.
“I’ve been a defense attorney for 34 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “This is a hacking statute, the kind of statute they use if you try to break into a government system or private business for some nefarious purpose. It’s to protect against identity fraud, to keep somebody from taking somebody’s intellectual property or trade secrets.
“I have to ask: ‘Don’t the prosecutors have more important things to do with their time?’ “
Walker’s trial is set to begin in February of next year, and the couple’s divorce was finalized earlier this month.