A horrible crime has occurred in the state of Michigan. You may have heard by now. But the people of Michigan need not fear: a prosecutorial posse is pursuing this criminal with vigor. A 33-year-old man who suspected his wife of cheating got into her e-mail account, using a password that he says she kept in a book next to the computer. A computer that the couple shared. Leon Walker says he had no choice but to snoop in his wife’s account. He cites concern for the couple’s child, whom he didn’t want around the man he suspected of being her lover. His suspicions were confirmed, apparently. The couple’s subsequent divorce became final this month. But the state of Michigan isn’t done with Walker. He’s been charged with unauthorized access to a computer in order to “acquire, alter, damage, delete, or destroy property.” The law is typically used to prosecute people for identity theft or for stealing trade secrets. Walker could possibly serve five years in prison. At question is whether a spouse can expect privacy on a jointly owned computer. Walker’s attorney says no. Furthermore, he says:
If there’s going to be a concerted effort in the future to prosecute everybody who looks at somebody else’s e-mail under their roof, they had better build a bunch more courthouses because we don’t have enough courthouses.
I’ve heard some people raise the question: if a wife had gotten into her husband’s e-mail account and confirmed that he was cheating, would the state be going after her? Probably, if someone thought an example should be made of her, I’m guessing. That’s what seems to be happening here. Mrs. Walker filed a complaint about her husband’s actions, according to the prosecutor. If a man were similarly caught, would he complain about his wife getting a hold of his e-mails? Or would he do as expected and “take it like a man”?