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Michigan Hacking Prosecution Against Husband Opens U.S. to Ridicule

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Is Leon Walker of Rochester Hills, Mich., a hacker or a hero? And has the criminal prosecution of Mr. Walker for reading his wife's e-mail made American jurisprudence into an international joke at the very time in history when life-and-death decisions depend on fostering respect around the globe for the U.S. legal system?
The first question will apparently be put to a Michigan jury in the New Year. The second question is already before the court of world opinion -- and the verdicts being rendered are not flattering to the United States.
"They can't blame Mr. Assange for this, can they?" wrote Robin Yates on the website of The Guardian. From Sweden, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing criminal charges of his own, R.U. Avingalaff wrote with appropriate sarcasm that he had been a "young man" (who) listened in on my parents' phone call to see what I was getting this Christmas," but that he now realizes the error of his ways and is willing to hand himself over to the proper authorities for his transgression.
Leon WalkerLess clever, but more directly on point, is the citizen-correspondent who wrote the London newspaper: "Yet more proof that America has too many lawyers."
The lawyer responsible for this litigation is a 64-year-old Michigan Democrat named Jessica R. Cooper who was elected Oakland County prosecutor in 2008 on a platform of making the office less political. Leon Walker and his lawyer can be forgiven for not thinking she has lived up to that promise.
Jessica Cooper describes herself, on official Oakland County stationery, as being "a pioneer in the world of women in the law." The pioneering principle she is championing in Mr. Walker's case is that any husband (or wife?) who reads their spouse's e-mail -- or, presumably, who accesses their Facebook pages -- without prior permission is committing a felony.
Walker's lawyer, Leon Weiss, rejected that notion. "I happen to believe that this conduct does not fall under this statute, and that the prosecution is unfortunate, and some might even say ludicrous," he told his local newspaper, the Oakland Press.
Leon Walker, a 33-year-old computer technician who also works for Oakland County government, said in an interview with the paper that he was motivated to read the e-mails because he suspected his wife, Clara, of having an affair with her second husband (Leon was her third). He also says he believed she was taking the couple's 1-year-old daughter to the other man's house during her liaisons. This concerned him, he said, because his wife had previously told him that the second husband had abused her physically, sometimes in the presence of another child, a boy, whom she had with her first husband.
"I started putting more thought into it, (and thought) she was very likely taking our daughter over to the guy's house," Walker told the Oakland Press. "So I said to myself, I bet you I can confirm that by reading her e-mail. She kept very simple passwords and she left them in notes and books throughout the house."
Leon Walker's fears were apparently confirmed, and he shared his newfound knowledge with Clara Walker's first husband, who promptly sued for custody of his son. Clara and Leon divorced, and in the custody battle over their little girl that followed, her lawyers sought to have the e-mail evidence ruled inadmissible on grounds it wasn't legally obtained.
This is a dubious assertion: Michigan has a hacking law that prevents -- on penalty of spending up to five years in prison -- third parties from breaking into computers or computer programs, but it wouldn't seem to apply in a case such as this one. For one thing, Walker purchased the laptop in his home, and it was used by both him and his wife. His "hacking" consisted solely of typing the password to his wife's Gmail account, which he said she kept conveniently in a book beside the computer.
The pioneering prosecutor doesn't see it that way. "The guy is a hacker," Jessica Cooper said in a voice mail response to the Detroit Free Press last week. "It was password-protected, he had wonderful skills, and was highly trained. Then he downloaded them and used them in a very contentious way."
The "contentious" use she's referring to was sharing them with his wife's first husband, which Walker had said he did out of concern about the possibility of domestic violence. "I was doing what I had to do," Walker told the Free Press. "We're talking about putting a child in danger."
In an interview Monday with Laura Berman of the Detroit News, Cooper sounded annoyed that this case has gone viral. "This is one of 20,000 cases," she complained. By way of justification for the decision to pursue this criminal case, the Oakland County prosecutor also said simply, "We have a hacking."
As Berman herself pointed out in her column, "we" also seem to have an adultery -- and that behavior is still on the books as constituting a crime in Michigan. Not to give Cooper any additional ideas, but no charges were filed against Clara Walker.
Filed Under: Law

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Dwayne Mauk

Lawyers are no good. Some of these prosecutors only want to make a name for themseles and are not going after real criminals but making life for everyday citizens miserable. What would have happened if the little boy had been abused? Who would have protected them then? This prosecutor forgets that a married couple are equal,treated as one and there aren't supposed to be secrets. This prosecutor should be fired.

January 04 2011 at 7:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
usedtobebestfrnd

@ Fermionne:
Yes, indeed, she was bringing her son over to husband #2's house. and allowing them time together. so, yes, leon had EVERY right to show those emails to her first husband. Since, it was the first husbands son that the second husband beat her in front of. And, she and her first husband, up UNTIL THIS TIME, have had a VERY agreeable relationship with VERY good rapport between all parties involved. This was because she never let husband #1 know of the abuse from husband #2.

January 03 2011 at 7:08 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Anthony

I wonder if the prosecutor would have filed the same complaint if the situation were reversed and the wife had read the husbands email?

December 31 2010 at 1:59 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Rebecca

This guy is only being called a "hacker" because he probably has the knowledge to actually hack his wife's email accounts if she hadn't the passwords all over the place for him to find and use. But he didn't hack the account. What he did was, log onto a shared computer in his home and use a password his wife had written down and found incriminating evidence of her cheating. This prosecutor is a nutjob. And is adultery is still on MI books as a crime, then the wife should be prosecuted. But she won't be. Seems to me, the prosecutor is doing everything in her power to ensure the wife gets sole custody of the little girl, even knowing she had been exposed to possible abuse. I'm a woman, a mother and divorcee and I can't stand the way this case has been handled.

December 31 2010 at 12:15 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
wllharrington

What happened to"a man's(or womans) home is his castle". The term 'marriage',much as it is abused today, carries with it the connotation of sharing,both good and bad. Although each person in a marriage is entitled to a certain amount of privacy, this right should not negate the right of one of the parters to ensure the safety of the union. If this man suspected, apparently correctly, that his wife was involved in an illegal act(adultery), he acted within the law to prove or disprove this before invoking the law. The police do not,to my knowledge, inform a person of their suspicions in order to give them time to erase evidence of their nefarious deeds.

December 31 2010 at 11:42 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
sconcreteguy

Jessica Cooper should be ashamed of herself! He was her husband. THIS IS A PERSONAL MATTER. NOT A MATTER FOR THE COURTS!! He had every right to know what was going on. Especially since it involved his child, another child, her taking them with to meet her lover and involving physical abuse! The last I heard, when you're married, you SHARE EVERYTHING!!! This is just another frivilous lawsuit by a woman trying to get her name in the papers! Is she trying to be another Gloria Albright? She ran on the basis of "not being political"? What exactly do you call this?? I am a married woman. This might say "concrete guy", but I'M SHARING THIS WITH MY HUSBAND!!! He had every right to read her mail. The only thing that Jessica Cooper is proving is how stupid Americans can be and how they sue over everything! If I was the husband, i'd make sure I put the "adultrey law", to good use in this case. Since Ms. Cooper and the wife want to bring such a ridiculous lawsuit in front of the courts, i'd make sure that at least part of the case had some true merit and i'd sue for adultrey! I'd also sue Jessica Cooper for bringing such a frivious lawsuit in front of the courts! At least that wouldn't be a "frivilous" lawsuit! This man now has to spend money on his attorney and time spent away from work. That's money out of his child's mouth! The wife and Jessica Cooper have it coming to them! She sounds like a bitter, vengeful, scorned woman. I certainly wouldn't call her a refined lady or even a lady at this point!! How did she ever get elected?? Oh, that's right! She lied about not being political!!!! Get a life Jessica Cooper and leave other people's PERSONAL MARITAL PROBLEMS STAY PERSONAL and to work out themselves, not in the courts! You're a disgusting excuse for an attorney and political official. Do you take those heels off when you're stooping so low?? Just wondering!

December 31 2010 at 10:44 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
croy1798

Classic case of the law gone wild. The prosecutor is simply power tripping, which it seems so many people do when they get into a positon of power. I say if she continues in this path she should also be REQUIRED to file charges of adultery against the wife, oh but I for a moment forget, she's a women prosecutor and a "pioneer in the world of women for law", go figure. Some in a postion of power above her needs to take her aside and knock some sense into her.

December 31 2010 at 9:30 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
fermionne

Most of the previous commenters seem to be grouping the hacking and the cheating together, when they are, in fact, two separate issues. It was unnecessary and gratuitous to hack into the email account and Leon Walker could definitely have handled the issue differently.

Just because they were married, Leon was not ENTITLED to the contents of her emails, she has a right to her own privacy. Hacking into someone else's account is just icky, and it's not ok to try and justify it by saying he had "suspicions". Many of you say that you have your spouses' passwords. That does not make you superior or inferior. It just means that you have come to an agreement with your spouse. In this case, she did not give him permission to access her account, so it is perfectly reasonable for her to expect him to respect the boundaries she set.

Moreover, he didn't just read her emails- he shared the information with her ex, with whom she presumably didn't get along. It's bad enough that he read her emails, but it's an entire new level of betrayal to share it with someone who probably hates her. If this case is ruled in Leon's favor, it could set a dangerous precedent where your spouse is entitled to get back at you by sharing your emails with someone who doesn't have your best interests in mind.

That being said, it would be unfair to give him a long sentence, but he definitely deserves a slap on the wrist.

December 31 2010 at 9:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to fermionne's comment
ariosh

They had come to an agreement to be a committed couple as well. Guess the fact that she violated that agreement escaped you. You may want to read about marriage vows again to refresh your memory.

January 03 2011 at 10:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gejudy H.

In Michigan, there is such a privilege as husband and wife, i.e., matrimonial privilege. Husband can get into your bank account, and wife can get into his. Husband can sign for Wife; Wife can sign for Husband, what used to be a benefit of matrimony is now a consequence of matrimony, particularly in this case. Get a clue Husbands and Wives, when you tie the matrimonial knot, that is the deal it can go either way like this, just depends on who you are with or how well you understand, "Two become one". If everything was kept separate in this matrimonial relationship I can see the case being legitimate. If the email was not as such, "public" via internet that can be hacked by anyone and furthermore, has been notably so previously by unknown stranger hackers as reported in the news even on AOL, I could see this case being a big deal. As this case is, I believe this is a waste of the Courts time, Lawyers being Lawyers doing what Lawyers do. I believe that the children should be able to decide where they want to be when they are old enough to decide. That the Mother should definitely be evaluated, that the Husband in this case should be evaluated for mental health fitness. There are privacy laws that should be abided by, federal laws that should be abided by without exception. The thing to remember here is vindictive behavior breeds similar and/or identical results onto the individual who is vindictive.

December 31 2010 at 9:10 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
ehamlin906

I find this case absolutely ridiculous. The police in the City of Wayne, also in Michigan, where I live won't enforce Court Orders, but they will persecute this poor man for using a computer he bought and his wife used. Ths State of Michigan is broke, this is going to cost the taxpayers all sorts of money, what the heck is going on? My ex-husband violated 4 court orders and stole $20,000.00 of my property and money and the police read the court oders, and they ordered me to open my garage so he could just help himself to what ever he wanted. He even stole things I inherited from my Dad's estate and my Dad died after my divorce was final. This is totally absurd. His wife left her passwords all over the place, she had no reason to make that information avaliable if she wanted privacy. If it were the company she worked for, the company owns the computer and she has no reason to think she will have any privacy in any email. Red tape and stupid laws as well as power hungry prosecuters are going after the wrong people so they can make headlines, it has nothing to do with what is right or wrong. Abuse of power is rampant, and we certainly need judicial reform in the State of Michigan. Prosecute mt exhusband for grand theft, not this guy for using HIS computer.

December 31 2010 at 6:14 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ehamlin906's comment
fermionne

He was using his computer all right, but he was accessing HER account. Just because I'm using my computer doesn't make it ok for me to access my neighbor's account.

And what about the part where Leon shared the contents of her personal emails with her first husband? She may have been careless leaving the password around him, but she certainly kept it away from her first husband. You have to admit that Leon was way out of line here. And he obviously only did that to get back at her. She wasn't taking her older son with her to her second husband's house, so what right does he have to share the information with the first husband?

December 31 2010 at 9:33 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

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