Leon Walker, a 33-year-old computer technician from Rochester Hills, faces up to five years behind bars when he goes to trial Feb. 7. Walker was charged in the case in February 2009, after his then wife, Clara Walker, discovered he had used her password to access her Gmail account.
Leon Walker was Clara Walker's third husband.
Walker, who is free on bond, said he took those e-mails and gave them to his wife's first husband, who used the information to file a motion to obtain custody of their child, the newspaper reported.
"I was doing what I had to do," Leon Walker told the Free Press. "We're talking about putting a child in danger."
Clara Walker subsequently was granted a divorce from Leon Walker, The Associated Press reported. She also notified authorities about the breach of her e-mail account, something prosecutors have not taken lightly.
"The guy is a hacker," Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said in a voice mail response to the Free Press. "It was password protected; he had wonderful skills and was highly trained. Then he downloaded them and used them in a very contentious way."
According to CNN, Walker said he did not hack the computer and simply entered her password, which she kept next to the computer.
Walker's defense attorney, Leon Weiss, told the Free Press that Cooper is misusing the law by charging his client under a statute that typically applies to identity theft or stealing intellectual property or trade secrets.
"I have to ask: 'Don't the prosecutors have more important things to do with their time?' " Weiss said.
E-mail snooping among spouses is not uncommon.
Earlier this year, Retrevo.com, a consumer electronics shopping and review site, polled 1,000 U.S. residents of varying age, gender, income and location to see whether they have ever spied on their significant others' e-mail. The results showed that 38 percent of those under 25 who are in a dating relationship have "snooped." Ten percent of the spies in that age group discovered the other person was unfaithful.
Retrevo's study found that 36 percent of people in committed relationships have spied on a partner's e-mail and call logs. Of those, only 3 percent found incriminating evidence.
Walker's case could set a precedent in Michigan, but it won't be the first time a spouse has been held liable in a similar situation.
"I had a case where a husband was having an affair and was using his e-mail account for it," he said. "The wife was able to get the password, and she logged in and was reading the e-mails between the husband and his paramour. She then gave the e-mails to her attorney, and the attorney took them into court and used them against the husband."
Following the divorce, Abrams said the husband sued his ex-wife and her attorney for violating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The suit was later settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.