Email Spying: Playing James Bond may land a snoopy spouse in jail

Jackson attorney Marie Matyjaszek has begun a new online legal blog called, "Legal Bling: Fashionable Legal Information" at http://legalbling.blogspot.com/

By: Marie Matyjaszek, Esq.

Law Office of Robert Matyjaszek

We've all gone a little "007" on our significant others at some point in our relationships - checking out their Facebook friends, peeking at their cell phones or interrogating him when he comes home with glitter on his clothes.

Spouses are supposed to be able to have a trusting relationship with each other, and when there are children involved, it becomes increasingly important to be able to rely on your husband's or wife's word.

However, if you suspect that trust is broken and decide to dig a little deeper, think twice, because you might end up in jail.

Thirty-three year old Leon Walker of Rochester Hills, Michigan, was charged in February 2009 with a felony that could have him facing up to five years in prison - all for logging into his wife's Gmail account.

Leon had begun having suspicions that his wife Clara was fooling around on him, and was concerned that it was with her second ex-husband, who had previously been arrested for domestic violence in the presence of her son from her first marriage.

Leon and Clara had a very young daughter at the time and he was concerned for her safety around Ex-husband #2, in addition to his step-son's well-being (yes, it is hard to keep all the people straight in this scenario).

According to Leon, Clara left her Gmail password next to the shared laptop located in the couple's home, so he logged in without issue.

Emails confirmed his suspicions about the affair and Leon provided Ex-husband #1 with the emails so he could use them in court to file for custody of their son.

Clara was apparently mad enough to make a police report, which wound up on the desk of Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, who is ready to make an example out of Mr. Walker, charging him with violating MCL 752.795, typically used to prosecute the theft of trade secrets or identities.

Here's where I think Ms. Cooper is trying to hang her hat: as luck would have it, Leon is a computer technician for Oakland County and according to the prosecution's theory, has the plethora of skills needed to hack into computers with ease, and aside from his wife's email, allegedly planned to break into the county's law enforcement computer system CLEMIS.

Leon claims he was inquiring about this system in order to file a Freedom of Information Act to obtain police reports, which he eventually did, learning that no one has ever been prosecuted in this manner before in Michigan.

A January 31, 2011 article by the Detroit Free Press indicated that "county officials told the Free Press that an internal investigation found that Walker...never made such an attempt."

Clara has alleged that Leon, who is now Ex-husband No. 3 (they were divorced in December 2010), did all of this to gain favor in front of their judge and win custody of their daughter.

Some of the many factors a court must examine when determining custody are domestic violence, regardless of whether or not that particular child witnessed the incident, the moral fitness of the parties, stability of the proposed homes, and everyone's favorite - the catch all - "[a]ny other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute."

If I was Leon Walker, I'd be bringing this affair to the attention of the court as well based on the history of the person with whom Clara had the affair.

And speaking of the affair, why isn't Clara being charged with adultery? If we're going to throw the book at Leon, let's consider the fact that Clara isn't exactly coming to the table with clean hands.

In my opinion, Leon's guilty of nothing other than being a concerned parent and nosy spouse. The parties lived in the same home at the time of the alleged crime, it was a shared laptop that both clearly had access to, and HELLO - Clara left her password next to the laptop.

I would say this is akin to the gracious "in plain sight" rule the police are allowed to follow. I suppose that there should be the caveat of mentioning that this is Leon's version of the story of course.

The Walker saga seems like a plot conjured up by the writers at "As the World Turns," but its outcome could have a tremendous impact on the legal community, particularly those of us that practice family law.

Of course rights of privacy exist, but to what extent do they apply in a marriage? I attach Facebook posts and emails to pleadings regularly to help make my case, and in some instances, they are quite helpful.

Now I've got to be concerned about how my client came about possessing those tidbits of information too.

Maybe it's about time for me to brush up on my criminal law.

The author is an associate attorney at the Law Office of Robert Matyjaszek PLLC, Jackson, Michigan.

Her blogsite is: http://legalbling.blogspot.com/

She can be reached at (517) 787-0351, or by emailing her at matyjasz@hotmail.com

Published: Thu, Apr 21, 2011

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