back to article Man fights felony hacking charge for accessing wife's email

A Michigan appeals court is trying to decide whether the state's anti hacking law should be invoked against a man who broke into his wife's Gmail account to see if she was having an affair. Leon Walker, 34, faces a maximum of five years in prison for using a shared family computer to read his wife's personal email after she …


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  1. Audrey S. Thackeray

    What offence?

    How exactly did he 'break in' to this account?

    If he knew the password or his wife had left a computer logged in it would hardly be an act of hacking any more than reading a love letter she'd left lying around would be mail fraud and it would be her word against his that such access was not routine.

    1. Steve Evans

      Sounds about the same level of hacking as the UK journalists are currently embroiled in.... In that case they accessed telephone voicemail which had been left at a default 4 number pin. usually 0000 or 1234, and they're going after everyone involved in that with relish!

      1. James Micallef Silver badge

        no, different from voicemail 'hacking'

        There's a huge difference, legally at least, between KNOWING a specific password (such as if this guy knowing his wife's password, which would imply that she consented to his access and GUESSING that password, even if it is trivial because the idiot user left the default password (because in this case there is no implied consent).

        If the wife left her email open on a shared computer, even if there's maybe no implied consent, there's no reasonable expectation of privacy, same as leaving an opened letter on the kitchen table

    2. Tim of the Win

      Probably used the 'forgotten password' feature.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Which just goes to show that if you face five years for reading her emails you may as well just use the stick no thicker than Your thumb rule.

    4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Wife wrote the password down

      This story's been covered extensively - including previous coverage here in the Reg.

      The wife wrote her password down, and Walker found it.

      He had good reason to check her email, besides the infidelity. The ex-husband she's been carrying on with has a record of child abuse. Walker notified her *first* husband, her child's father, that she was again putting his son in danger from this criminal.

      The real story here is that Walker is being tried by a prosecutor - Jessica Cooper - who's a vile media slut looking to build a career. She, and Clara Walker, are the real villains here. If I lived in Oakland county I'd be canvassing for anyone who was willing to run against Cooper in the next election. Of course, this is a systemic problem with the US's adversarial justice system, and its reward structure for state attorneys.

      (For the record, I don't care one way or another about Clara Walker's infidelity - that's between her and her husband. I do care about her bringing the man who hit her son back into the picture. Yes, it can be very hard for people to escape an abusive situation; but once you're out, stay the hell out, idiot.)

  2. M Gale

    "Intellectual" "Property"?

    Fuck off. He either hacked her email or didn't. Going to the website to find the username and password pre-filled is not "hacking", and neither is knowing the password anyway.

    How did this even get to anything other than a divorce court?

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Since they were married at the time, surely what was hers (intellectual property) was also his, no? Job done, next case.

      Hey I could be a lawyer too; give me my $100k and I'll just sit on my ass doing nothing for society.

      1. AdamWill


        "Since they were married at the time, surely what was hers (intellectual property) was also his, no?" No it wasn't. Shockingly, the law recognizes the concept that people who are married can still have private property which is specifically theirs, not shared with their spouse.

        "Hey I could be a lawyer too"

        Apparently not!

    2. Mark 65

      @M Gale

      I'd like to nominate "intellectual property" as the biggest c*nt of a term I have ever witnessed. A label to classify the most insignificant of brain-farts as if it were Nobel winning material.

  3. Tim Greenwood


    I think I may have commited a similar offence as I have accessed my wifes email. Arguably there might be mitigating circumstances as she also accesses my mail. Strangely enough we have a trusting relationship where we have things like a shared bank account and shared ownership of property etc.

    More and more I feel out of step with the modern world.

    1. Franklin

      "Strangely enough we have a trusting relationship where we have things like a shared bank account and shared ownership of property etc."


      Seems to me that if you've reached the point where you're snooping in your partner's email, the relationship is already over. The best measure of the health of a relationship is the quality of the communication in it. If you don't trust the communication, you're already sunk.

      1. bitten

        Yeah, my wife says the same.

      2. JC 2

        I wouldn't say the relationship is already over, if that were really the case then he wouldn't have needed to see the evidence for himself, he'd have just left already.

        Same goes the other way around, her relationship with him is not already over until she leaves him. We might say she didn't for money or some other reason, but plenty of relationships ARE based on convenience or money rather than trust or love and that is an understanding between two people. I don't agree with it morally "for myself" but what two other consenting adults do is their own business.

        It is true that cheating often breaks up a relationship. It is also true that not only suspicion, but even being caught, does not break them all up.

        If we're idealizing about "health" in a relationship, where does that end? Anyone can idealize about what someone else should do to suit their standards for "health" but we are not the husband or wife in that marriage. As it stood they were still married which like it or not, constitutes a relationship of some sort as long as they're still living together.

  4. ratfox
    Paris Hilton

    Intellectual property? *snort*

    I guess married couple cannot claim invasion of privacy, so they went to the next level. I'm surprised they are not charging him with infringing the copyright of her password.

  5. Alan Esworthy

    what next, grocery lists?

    From the article:

    "Your client is being charged with security intellectual property – her email, accessing her intellectual property," judge Pat Donofrio said.

    Judge Donofrio is confused, ignorant, stupid, or any combination of the three. "Intellectual property" legally refers to patents, trade secrets, trade marks, and copyrights. To include email is ludicrous.

    Will I have to execute a non-disclosure agreement when my wife sends me out with a grocery list?

    1. Franklin

      Well, if you want to get technical about it, an email is protected by copyright. And if Bob reads an email written to Susie by Joe, the copyright resides with Joe, not with Susie, so you could make a case under intellectual property statutes.

      Not saying it's a GOOD case, mind. But folks tend to forget that copyright isn't just something that movie companies and record labels have.

      1. ArmanX

        Does breaking a copyright involve copying material, or merely viewing it?

        Books, movies, and music (and indeed, emails) can be copyrighted. However, it is possible to read, watch, or listen to those things without breaking the law. If I broke into someones house, stole a DVD, and watched it, I would not be guilty of breaking copyright law - but I would be guilty of property theft. I would assume that, likewise, reading an email is not breaking a copyright; copying/forwarding the email may be, but not merely reading it. Then again, I'm not a lawyer, so what do I know?

      2. dogged

        email is protected by copyright.

        Which must be clearly asserted in that email, otherwise it isn't.

        1. Vic

          Re: email is protected by copyright.

          > Which must be clearly asserted in that email, otherwise it isn't.

          No, you're thinking of trademarks.

          Copyright applies automatically to any written expression you might make. Different jurisdictions apply different rules about registration and marking when it comes to determining damages, but it is simply *not* true that you need to assert a copyright in order to own it.


  6. sabba

    Fuck me... they will be criminalising breaking into you ex-wife's house and rooting through her knicker drawer. Is nothing sacred?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      it was always

      my future wife(s) - anon for usual reasons/wives

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He's going to prison

    It most definitely is illegal to hack you wife's e-mail account.

  8. Eddy Ito


    If they find him guilty, exactly what does it mean for Google scraping every gmail account to target ads? Oh right, Google can afford better judg... lawyers, I mean they can afford better lawyers.

    1. Charles Manning

      Terms & conditions

      When you signed up with Gmail you accepted the scraping.

      If this bloke had got his wife to click through/sign an agreement that he would be allowed to read her email he'd be in the clear.

      1. JC 2

        ... and when you sign up to be married you accept that you lost some of your privacy.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        terms and conditions

        Then it would probably be implied that he had access given the marital status. If the other spouse can be held responsible for debts procurred by their partner while they are maried, then I'd think this would fall under the same argument, that married people are married for the purpose of being a social unit. Otherwise, they'd just be two people shacking up and splitting the rent. This guy could just have easily read her diary, which is really what this is. So, if he used her key to unlock the diary, would it fall under hacking?

    2. AdamWill

      it means...

      ...that you entered into an agreement with Google granting them precisely the right to do that in exchange for providing you with the service.

      It seems unlikely the guy and his wife had a similar arrangement.

      What is this, ridiculous simile week?

      1. Vic

        > It seems unlikely the guy and his wife had a similar arrangement.

        Doesn't that rather depend on their marriage vows?

        A traditional one is "with all my worldly goods, I thee endow". Which would kinda let this guy off the hook, wouldn't it?


  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm happily married, but going on the experience of both my Bro, and Bro in law.

    When it comes down to a court of law between a man and a woman; if it's a question of punishing a man for protecting himself, versus enforcing responsibility for female actions, then I'm afraid he's f*cked. Naturally his wife could end this injustice anytime by announcing she gave him permission, but since she wants his house, and him out of the way, well, I really hope my son marries a woman like her. He would be well advised to take the five years, just to be rid of her.

    The reason I'm happily married is because I looked at all the women my mates went out with, and crossed out all women I met who did anything my mates didn't like in their wives.

    My wife had a similar policy, she announced at our wedding that her father advised her if she wanted to be married, she should write down ten things she wanted from a man, and if she could find a man with one of those things, she should marry him. Hey presto, I've still got my own hair.

    I'm a lucky man.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "He would be well advised to take the five years, just to be rid of her."

      Some exs you'd put up with the time in jail for taking them out with a sniper rifle just to get them out your life.

      AC? Because I had one like that and unfortunately she is still alive. And I found out about the affair by opening an email.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good to know it may be illegal

    I have just found out by chance that the woman to whom I am engaged since two years keeps the valentine and greetings cards from her previous boyfriend in her personal drawer. My cards apparently didn't have such privilege. I was about to confront her about this but, after reading this case, I fear I could be charged because I opened the drawer.

    Anonymous, of course.

    1. Steven Roper

      Break it off

      and get the hell out of there now while you still can. Any woman who perpetrates the kind of double standards you've just described is a woman who's only going to rape you in the divorce court in a few years' time. I know the symptom - the "I can but you can't" mentality - and I've seen this happen to several mates of mine. Don't say you weren't warned!

      1. Vic

        > a woman who's only going to rape you in the divorce court

        There's an old saying - "Never, ever get married. Just find someone you don't like and give her a house".


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "get the hell out of there"?

        No, get *her* the hell out of there, get the locks changed, and don't leave her in the house unsupervised to avoid bunny-boiling.

    2. Hollerith 1

      Chill, man

      She keeps them to remind herself that she was special to them. But even as she saved them, she knew she would be looking back on them as history.

      She's not doing that with you. She doesn't see you as becoming history.

      But if she's a good person, she will ritually chuck them out just befor the wedding, as a little ceremony.

      Women do that.

  11. R 16


    If she wouldnt let him in her email. Then of course she was cheating. No hacking needed. But I feel that this falls under that 50/50 law. Whatever is hers is his, even if she puts a lot on the shed. he can still break it off. Its his shed too.

    1. teebie

      did you just say "if she's nothing to hide then she's nothing to fear"

    2. sabba

      If she's going to put a lot on the shed...

      ...either the roof will eventually give way or it'll all blow off in the wind!!


      (yeah, I am guessing you meant lock not lot)

  12. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    The ironic bit?

    Judge Pat Donofrio is slated for being a Republican judge, which probably means he should be all for punishing "the wicked" (the cheating wife) and protecting "the meek" (the cuckolded husband). Unless, of course, she was screwing around with hubbie number two when she was married to her first husband, in which case he'd probably like to sentence them both to prison time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well since he's republican ...

      He probably believes in the "sanctity of marriage" ... i.e. the first marriage is still in force, therefore the second husband is in the wrong on 2 counts.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've always thought the Taliban were Republicans at heart! Maybe Donofrio could have them stoned to death.

    3. skeptical i

      Riiiiight, the Republicans -- party of Mark "Hiking the Appalachian Trail" Sanford, ...

      ... Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, and many others who could not keep their married hands off of women who were not their spouses. Yes, yes, the Democrats are far from pure in this regard (John Edwards, Gary Hart, &c), but they don't ride such a high horse about morality, law and order, and so on.

      1. ArmanX

        I find this an interesting statement on morals...

        If you have morals, yet break them, you are a lowlife; if you have no morals, you can't break them, so that's ok. How far does this go? If I have no problem with other people picketing my future funeral, calling my names, or shouting obscenities, I could be part of the Westboro Baptist Church and not be scum of the earth, right?

        Cheating on your wife (or husband) may not be illegal, but it is a scummy thing to do. Your belief system should not and does not affect that, no matter if you are otherwise of high moral character, or the scum of the earth.

        1. Galidron


          Think of it this way. If you have morals and break them you are both immoral and a hypocrite, whereas if you have no morals you are just immoral. It doesn't make cheating on your spouse ok it just makes it worse.

          When someone spends at least some of their time publicly sitting in judgement of others for the life they chose then that someone had better be able to follow their own rules if they don't want to be ridiculed.

  13. b166er

    She's a right piece of work, eh?

    Cheats on her husband and then tries to imprison him for catching her at it.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      They both ...

      ... behaved badly within the terms of their own relationship. She was dallying with another bloke, he violated her privacy. There isn't anything to choose between them in that context (personally, I think his actions are worse than hers, but that doesn't matter). However, there are (fortunately) no laws against adultery, but the laws regarding what level of privacy can be expected in the computer age are still being worked out. He might end up lucky, but I wouldn't bet on it.

      1. Rob Dobs

        not in US

        In the US most states DO have laws against adultery.

        The main gain/loss is that alimony (spousal support) can be negated by the spouse cheating.

        In essence, they broke the contract first, so you are not required to uphold the support part of the contract.

        In many states if you are the victim of adultery you can sue the person your mate shacked up with for "theft of affection" and get a tidy sum from it some cases.

        This of course doesn't allow for criminal behavior in return, so it really does boil down to the Fact of did he break in, or did he have reasonable access to her E-mail.

        If they can't prove it either way, he shouldn't be convicted, as he said/she said isn't evidence enough, and both people have reason to give false testimony.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    judge Pat Donofrio said...

    "Your client is being charged with security intellectual property – her email, accessing her intellectual property,"

    Anybody care to speculate what he actually MEANT by that? Is 'security intellectual property' an offence in Michigan? Does he always talk in incoherent sentences?

    1. sabba

      Since email is generally transmitted as plain text...

      ...perhaps he'd better imprison the sys-admins of all the mail-relay servers her mail probably passed through (just in case they happened to read it).

  15. Brian Miller 1

    Google Permission VS. Marriage Vows

    So let me get this straight... Some people think that because you click a tiny little box saying that you read the T&C's (which you didn't) that makes it ok for them to do what they want with your personal info....

    But, standing in front of all of your collective friends and family and vowing to be faithful, trusting and sharing of your WHOLE LIFE, then signing a document to that effect, does not give the partner the right to look at personal info?

    Wow...... They say the pen is mighter than the sword, now apparently the check box beats pen hands down.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      I don't know where you got married ...

      ... but I certainly didn't make any vows relating to my "whole life". I'm not even sure there was anything about sharing, in the sense of "you have the right to know exactly what I do and where I go and even who I sleep with".

      I didn't get married in an Anglo-Saxon country, though.

      1. Steven Roper

        At the weddings I've been to

        the marriage oath repeated by the couple contained the conditions "in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, *until death us do part*" or words to that effect. It's pretty much the standard wedding oath in English-speaking countries (although I don't know if they still say it in the US considering their horrendous divorce rate!).

        Albeit that I've seen that oath violated on a number of occasions (maybe divorcing couples who say this at their weddings should be done for perjury) it does also contain the explicit statement of "becoming one flesh" in addition. Which, all things considered, does amount to "your whole life" in effect.

  16. Lance 3

    Maybe his lawyet should try a different tactic. That Gmail account wasn't hers, it was theirs. If they got a divorce, she is entitled to half, so what was his is not really his, but equally owned by both.

  17. Keep Refrigerated

    The life that I have...

    I share an encrypted KeePass DB with my wife over dropbox, for almost all of my online accounts - in case anything should happen.

    So I'm guessing she gets life imprisonment for that level of copyright infringement?

    *geekpoints to anyone who gets the connection between post and title (without google).

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