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Man Who Discovered Affair in Wife's Email Faces Charges For Privacy Invasion

“There is no real expectation of privacy in email.”

Is reading your spouse's email a crime?

Apparently so in Michigan where a man who used his (now ex) wife's password to access her Gmail account is facing criminal computer misuse charges after discovering her online affair. Leon Walker, 33, told the Oakland Press that the case against him represents a "miscarriage of justice" and that he believe he'll be exonerated.

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Walker's wife, Clara, was married twice previously and he recently discovered she was having an affair with her second husband -- a man who had been arrested in the past for beating her in front of her young son, Walker says.

But Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Sydney Turner says the felony charges against Walker are justified and have charged him under a statute typically used to prosecute identity thieves.   Walker, who divorced his wife earlier this month, now faces a criminal trial in February and up to five years in prison.

According to the Wall Street Journal the area of spousal privacy rights online is a gray area.

Oakland County, Michigan prosecutor Jessica Cooper told the Free Press that she was justified in charging Walker.  “The guy is a hacker,” she said. The email account “was password protected.”

In a voice message left with the Law Blog, Cooper added that two judges have denied Walker’s motion to dismiss the charges. Walker and his wife “were in divorce proceedings and had separate email accounts, separate computers, separate everything,” Cooper said.

Michael McCulloch, who represented Walker’s ex-wife in the divorce proceedings, declined to discuss the criminal charges against Walker.

Leon Weiss, who represents Walker in the criminal case, told the Law Blog that his client was wrongly charged under a statute that is aimed at the hacking of government computers.

“If the Michigan legislature had wanted to prohibit one spouse living under the same roof, with a shared computer, from reading a spouse’s email, they could have constructed the statute to prohibit that,” he said. “There is no real expectation of privacy in email,” Weiss added. “It’s too out there.”

We recommend checking out Weiss’s work bio, which is one of the more entertaining we have seen and includes this quote from Weiss: “I have a competitive fire which has raged white hot ever since I was a kid. . . even when playing a board game, I go for the jugular!”
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