Former Sheriff Miles Slack Secretly Intercepted Communications from Ex-Wife’s Supreme Court Computer

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Former Clay County Sheriff Miles J. Slack  pleaded guilty  to illegal wiretapping, a federal felony, U.S. Attorney  Booth Goodwin announced.

Appearing today in federal district court, Mr. Slack, who resigned as sheriff last Friday as part of his plea  agreement with Goodwin, admitted to surreptitiously  installing a keystroke logger on a computer belonging to the Supreme Court of  Appeals of West Virginia. 
       

The compromised computer was  a government computer assigned to Mr. Slack’s then wife, Lisa Slack, who works in the office of a Clay  County magistrate. Computers in the offices of circuit judges and magistrates  throughout West Virginia are owned and maintained by the state’s Supreme Court,  and are connected to a central Supreme Court computer network.
       

Mr. and Ms. Slack were in the  midst of a divorce when he illegally tapped her computer. Mr. Slack admitted  that he intended to monitor his ex-wife’s activity on the computer, including  messages she sent through Internet chat and e-mail programs. He said he also  wanted to capture his ex-wife’s usernames and passwords for various Internet  services. Mr. Slack acknowledged that the wiretap device he installed captured  everything that was typed on his ex-wife’s computer, including information  about court business and the personal information of defendants in Clay County  magistrate court.
       

     

Mr. Slack installed the hidden device in late April of this year and  it remained in place for over two weeks.


        “It’s a shame that Clay County’s chief law  enforcement officer chose to illegally tap a government computer,” said U.S.  Attorney Goodwin. “Our elected officials and law enforcement officers have to  respect the law like everyone else. If they don’t, there are consequences.”
       

“These days, it seems like  every detail of our lives is being bounced around the world on computer  networks,” Goodwin continued. “Imagine learning that someone was secretly  monitoring everything you did on your own computer, without any legal  authority. It’s a very serious breach of privacy. That’s why the laws against  wiretapping are so important.”
       

Keystroke logging devices can  be purchased from a number of Internet-based sellers. The devices, usually one  to two inches long, are attached to a computer’s keyboard cable. Once  installed, they can intercept everything typed on the keyboard, including email  and information transmitted to Internet sites.


        Because the devices are  unobtrusive and normally hidden behind the computer targeted for surveillance,  they can go undetected for long periods of time. Though small in size, some  keystroke loggers can store two gigabytes of information, enough to record more  than a billion keystrokes. 
          

Slack served as a Clay County deputy sheriff for around 16 years. In early 2012, while acting as chief deputy for the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, Slack announced he was running for sheriff. Then-Sheriff Randy Holcomb, however, quickly demoted Slack to the rank of sergeant, a move that threatened Slack’s election bid. Under West Virginia civil service laws, deputy sheriffs other than the chief deputy may not run for public office. In order to remain in the race, Slack resigned from the department and became Chief of Police for Clay, West Virginia, the county seat of Clay County.
       

In the May 2012 primary  election, Slack soundly defeated two other candidates for the Democratic  nomination for sheriff, receiving nearly 78% of the vote. He ran unopposed in  the November 2012 general election and took office January 1, 2013. Slack’s first projects as sheriff included expanding evening patrols and seeking  funding for a new home confinement officer.           

The case is being  investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the West Virginia State  Police, with assistance from the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. The  prosecution is being led by Counsel to the United States Attorney Steven Ruby. 
        

Slack faces up to five years  in prison when he is sentenced on December 19, 2013 by United States District  Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr.

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