A husband who suspected his wife was having an affair faces up to five years in jail after reading her emails without her permission.
Leon Walker has been charged under anti-hacking laws aimed at preventing identity theft in the US. The 33-year-old had suspected his wife Clara, who had been married twice before was having an affair with her former husband.
He is alleged to have used his computer skills to gain access to her Gmail email account on the shared home computer. Mr Walker discovered a series of emails which confirmed his suspicions that his wife was cheating on him.
With nearly half US divorce cases involving some form of privacy invasion such as the reading of text messages or social networking web pages, the case could have significant legal repercussions.
As her second husband had previously been arrested for beating her in front of her son, Walker handed the emails over to the boy’s father.
The concerned father, Clara’s first husband, sought sole custody of the boy and was forced into revealing Walker had leaked him the emails.
When his wife realised her emails had been read she went to the authorities and press charges.
She later split up from Walker and the couple were divorced earlier this month, when he was arrested for hacking.
Prosecutors in Oakland County, Michigan, charged Walker under the state’s anti-hacking laws which were aimed at stopping identity theft and used to prosecute people who hack into Government computers.
Prosecutor Jessica Cooper dismissed Walker’s claims that he had used his wife’s password to log on to the computer.
She said Walker was nothing but a “hacker” who used his skills as a computer technician to gain access to his wife’s email account.
“It was password protected, he had wonderful skills, and was highly trained. Then he downloaded them and used them in a very contentious way,” she said.
Walker said he had become suspicious of his wife after she failed to return home one night.
He claimed he and his wife shared a laptop which he had bought after their marriage and maintained she often left the password to her email account lying around the house they shared in Rochester Hills.
Walker said he was worried as his wife was taking their one year old daughter to stay with her violent ex husband.
“I started putting more thought into it, and thought she was very likely taking our daughter over to the guy’s house,” Walker said.
“So I said to myself, I bet you I can confirm that by reading her email. She kept very simple passwords and she left them in notes and books throughout the house.”
He added: “I was doing what I had to do. We’re talking about putting a child in danger.”
Walker, who works as an IT technician for Oakland County, denied that he had hacked into the account.
He is due to go on trial in February and could face a maximum of five years in jail if convicted.