Columbia, SC (GreenvilleOnline.com) -- The leaking of personal e-mails written by state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom to a female candidate for state education superintendent could have violated the law if someone got them through unauthorized access.
Eckstrom's Sexually-Charged Emails Raise Legal, Political Questions
Columbia, SC (GreenvilleOnline.com) -- The leaking of personal e-mails written by state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom to a female candidate for state education superintendent could have violated the law if someone got them through unauthorized access./>
p itxtvisited="1">The question of legality over leaked e-mails surfaced last year when Gov. Mark
Sanford publicly announced his extramarital affair with an Argentine woman and then watched as his steamy electronic messages to the woman were printed by news outlets which were sent them by an anonymous source.p itxtvisited="1">On Wednesday, personal e-mails by Eckstrom to Kelly Payne, a Columbia-area teacher running for education superintendent, were sent to news outlets, sparking political tongue wagging and filling political blogs.p itxtvisited="1">Eckstrom, according to a spokesman, has been separated from his wife for two years. Payne is divorced. Neither would comment on their relationship, but Payne accused unnamed political opponents of a "deliberate attempt to undermine my candidacy" by releasing the e-mails.p itxtvisited="1">Federal law bars unauthorized access to any computer used in commerce or communication - including computers outside the United States when they affect what happens inside the country, acting U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald told The Greenville News last year.p itxtvisited="1">Sanford's mistress, Maria Belen Chapur, said then her Hotmail e-mail account was "hacked" and e-mails "stolen" around Nov. 24 last year, and that she has a "firm suspicion" of who did it, though she declined to identify the person. Hotmail is owned by U.S.-based Microsoft.p itxtvisited="1">Federal investigators in South Carolina have shown in several recent computer hacking trials that they can track illegal access to a specific physical location such as a home address - a crucial step in convicting former Greenville County Councilman Tony Trout recently of illegally logging into the Greenville County administrator's private Yahoo e-mail accounts.p itxtvisited="1">Charges can include both felonies and misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances, McDonald said. Federal law also prohibits intentionally disclosing electronic communication if the person knows or has a reason to know the information was obtained illegally.p itxtvisited="1">McDonald said prosecutors have to prove intent, and that if someone didn't know that e-mails were obtained illegally, then their disclosure likely wouldn't prompt prosecution.p itxtvisited="1">"Confidential correspondence has been leaked to members of the media in what appears to be a deliberate effort to undermine my candidacy," Payne said. "I am not going to comment on matters involving my personal life as a single mother, nor am I going to stoop to the level of my political opponents by returning evil with evil."p itxtvisited="1">A spokesman for Eckstrom said he wouldn't investigate how the e-mails were leaked.p itxtvisited="1">"I think some folks, and some people in the media, sometime want to focus too much on the private lives of public figures - things involving their lives outside their offices - and not enough on the jobs they've been given to do," he said. />