back to article Thought your divorce was ugly? Bloke sues wife for wiretapping – 'cos she read his email

A fella in the US is suing his ex‑wife, alleging she broke federal wiretapping and privacy laws by snooping on his email during their divorce. The case, just kicked off in an Illinois district court after six years of wrangling, pits Barry Epstein against his former spouse of 46 years, Paula Epstein, who filed for divorce in …

Anonymous Coward

Hey why not

Bloke over here is being done for stalking his wife who he thought (wrongly it seems) was playing away.

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Re: Hey why not

In most of Europe that would certainly be illegal, UK it would fall under Computer Misuse Act(?). Certainly hacking the work email account would be a criminal act and would have the company / police prosecuting her separately.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hey why not

Bloke over here is being done for stalking his wife who he thought (wrongly it seems) was playing away.

It is illegal, and in some countries this even carries a mandatory prison sentence. It's better to have separate email accounts: you can still grant access via your screen or forward if you want to share something, but it keeps it legally clean in both directions. If you want an email address for both, set up a forwarder or alias (basically a mini mailing list) but keep the repositories personal.

If your relationship is at a stage where you feel compelled to monitor someone it may be time to get some help or counselling, it will be cheaper and have less impact on your life than a criminal conviction.

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Re: Hey why not

Yes - a prosecutable offence under the Computer Misuse Act. I know someone who did similar - logged into the email account of a partner that he'd been given the password to during their relationship - and ended up with a suspended prison sentence. Unfortunately he was in a profession that doesn't tolerate its members having any criminal convictions: end result, he lost his job and is unlikely to ever work again. All for a moment of madness.

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America

Fuck yeah

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Re: America

I got it..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: America

Fuck yeah

More hell no by now

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Why issue a sueball?

Surely this would be a criminal violation?

It reminds me of some of the super-injunctions in the UK, if people were really being blackmailed, perhaps rather than just getting an injunction, maybe you should be involving the police? Unless of course the reasoning was simply an excuse...

If a lawyer has used this information, then wouldn't they would be in big trouble with the bar, rather than simply having to defend a defamation suit?

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Re: Why issue a sueball?

Because you have to convenience some to prosecute. It's not uncommon for the plod here to say oh that's a civil case.

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Unhappy

Re: Why issue a sueball?

@kain preacher - "It's not uncommon for the plod here to say oh that's a civil case."

Considering it involves alleged wiretapping and possible attorney misconduct, that's disappointing.

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Re: Why issue a sueball?

It depends on what evidence he has. Does he have enough evidence of wrongdoing to convince a jury "beyond a reasonable doubt" or not? That's the standard for criminal convictions. Civil convictions generally require a lower standard ("a preponderance of evidence" in California), so that could be the issue.

Or the prosecutor just doesn't give a damn about the case, which is also quite possible, whether or not the plaintiff has good evidence. We don't do private criminal prosecutions in the US (and I believe they're rare in the UK, for that matter). A (private) civil prosecution is the only possible remedy here if the prosecutor won't take on the case.

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Re: Why issue a sueball?

Perhaps he doesn't want his former "ball and chain" in jail, he just wants some of his money back.

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Re: Why issue a sueball?

This is minor compared to the cases of 'person flies into a rage, runs someone over with their car, but miraculously doesn't kill them, only crippling them.' and the police decide its not worth their time pressing charges / prosecuting.

I wonder how much discretion the police get, or if they have a huge backlog of super-serious crimes to prosecute.

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Re: Why issue a sueball?

I got to see one of those in person. Ex-wife not only hit the ex-husband once with her car, she decided that two more were called for. He got a compound fracture of the leg. He refused calling police or an ambulance. When he did call, it was only for an ambulance. "I did something stupid" was what he said to them.

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Re: Why issue a sueball?

I wonder how much discretion the police get, or if they have a huge backlog of super-serious crimes to prosecute.

Contrary to popular belief, the police in the United States don't charge or prosecute people. They collect evidence and they arrest people-- ideally people under reasonable suspicion of committing a crime, but regrettably that's not always the case.

The decision to file charges/prosecute a person rests with the District or State Attorney's office. There's no national standard or requirement that I know of, but generally the prosecutor's office has two or three days to file charges after an arrest, otherwise they are required to release the arrestee; in California, they have forty-eight hours.

It is not uncommon for someone to be arrested and then released without charge: because an honest mistake was made by the arresting officer; because the prosecutor's office decides there isn't enough evidence; or because the officer acted stupidly or maliciously.

My guess for this case is that the police and/or District Attorney's office don't want to get involved, probably because it's almost entirely a domestic dispute.

If the plaintiff manages to win the case, his attorney might hand the evidence collected to that point to the District Attorney's office, which might be enough to get them going, and he would probably file a bar complaint against the ex-wife's divorce attorney.

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Anonymous Coward

"[...] because the prosecutor's office decides there isn't enough evidence; or because the officer acted stupidly or maliciously."

In the UK that is usually explained by the police as "insufficient evidence to charge". No matter how innocent the person who then has an arrest black mark recorded against their name.

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Surely in the UK...

... it world be an offence to read an e-mail for somebody else even if it were on a shared computer?

Sidenote ... this does not even scratch the surface in terms of how ugly divorces can get.

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It's a shame they're splitting up ...

... because it means that in the future they will make 2 more people unhappy. Instead of inflicting their personalities on each other.

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Anonymous Coward

Whilst undergoing the same legal matter in the UK, I was explicitally told by a solicitor that looking through the (financial) paperwork of the other half was illegal. So I can see why looking at similar content in email would also be classed as bad.

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"she only looked at emails her then-husband had left open on their shared computer"

But that is STILL!!!! unauthorised access of data.

"I didn't kill him, I just made his heart stop"

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If it was pre-finalised divorce, isn't it all assumed to be shared property?

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If it was pre-finalised divorce...

Also at what point do previous arrangements/modus operandi cease to apply?

I suspect that given the law only considers the two people to be wholly separate entities after the date specified in the decree nisi, it could be argued that unless the relevant partner took explicit steps to change things such as change password on 'their' email account which was being used as the 'households' email account, previous arrangements would still apply.

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If it was pre-finalised divorce, isn't it all assumed to be shared property?

Depends. In most sates there is a term called legally separated. At that point stuff that it's in your possession tends to be yours and any new thing you buy is not community property . Legally separate comes before divorce hearing.

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Shouldn't her lawyer have some explaining to to to his professional body?

I would have thought making use of privileged information, namely the exchanges between her husband and his lawyer, would be high on the list of things lawyers shouldn't really be doing.

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Big Brother

Hmm, interesting

If, as she says, she only looked at stored e-mails that had been left open then she is not guilty of wiretapping, courtesy of the Stored Communications Act. The SCA specifically excluded stored e-mails from falling under 4th Amendment and anti-wiretapping protections.

If she set up an auto forward then she is on much shakier legal ground. And if her attorney made use of privileged (attorney/client) communications, then he may be up for disbarment.

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Facepalm

Of course....

...he'll win $1,000,000 and then she'll demand more money due to his windfall, caused by her hard work.

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I'll be watching this one

My ex accessed my email without permission during our divorce (about 90% sure it was her anyway, given that I traced it as far as the tiny town that she was living in at the time and, frankly, what are the odds that the only time anyone has gotten into my email it was anyone other than the person who had a reason to be digging up dirt and happened to know the password?). There was nothing in there I'd be unwilling to publish to World + Dog, so I changed the password and let it go and made sure she knew she'd been caught. It just wasn't worth the effort of pushing it any further than that. Hell, I even racked the whole thing up as my own dumb fault for not changing the password as soon as she moved out.

Still, I'll be interested in the outcome here.

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Mushroom

Assumptions

seem to be the basis of the posts here.

His lawyer should be able to get evidence of forwarding from the company or his personal email provider.

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