Dec 152011
 
 December 15, 2011  Court, Surveillance

Alex Rose reports on a case where a Pennsylvania judge handed out a fairly lenient sentence even though the defendant was convicted of installing software on his father’s computers to access and read his e-mails:

Parth Ingle was sentenced to two years of county probation and 80 hours of community service Wednesday for using a computer to spy on his father prior to his murder.

Ingle, 25, of Pottstown, was found guilty of unlawful use of a computer following a jury trial in October. He was found not guilty on 15 counts of illegally intercepting emails, however.

His sister and co-defendant, Avnee Ingle, 28, also of Pottstown, was acquitted of similar charges at trial.

The case stemmed from the January 2008 murder of the siblings’ father, Arunkumar Ingle, which remains unsolved. Arunkumar Ingle was discovered beaten and stabbed in his Middletown home by his daughter and wife, Bhavnaben Ingle. No one to date has been charged with the murder.

Pennsylvania State Police interviews with family members following the murder revealed that Parth Ingle had installed software on two family computers in 2004 and 2007 that allowed him to access his father’s email accounts.

Assistant District Attorney Joseph Lesniak asked Judge Ann Osborne to hand down a harsher sentence, arguing Parth Ingle had broken one of the main tenets of the U.S. Constitution – the right to privacy.

“He meddled in affairs that were none of his business and he used a computer to surreptitiously … garner information that we as a society try to protect,” said Lesniak. “At least when somebody comes at you with a knife … you know who it is and you know, when you get stabbed, who stabbed you. In this case, the victim … didn’t know who was stabbing him in the back numerous times and that’s what Parth Ingle did: stabbed his own father in the back using a computer.”

But defense attorney John Kustursiss argued, as he had at trial, that Parth Ingle only did so at the request of his mother after she told him his father was having an affair or affairs.

Read more on Daily Times.

This strikes me as a very different prosecution and outcome than some other cases where people have spied on others’ e-mails. In Michigan, as one example, Leon Walker faces felony hacking charges for accessing and reading his wife’s e-mails.  The prosecutor’s hyperbole aside, there are some unique aspects to this case, and without the full records, it’s difficult to know how much they factored in:

1.  The defendant’s mother reportedly asked him to do something because she suspected her husband was having an affair.  But so what if she did ask her son? If a parent asks you to commit a crime? Is that really a defense?

2.  The defendant didn’t just spy on his father’s e-mail; he confronted him about what he found – presumably with the goal of trying to keep the family together.  But so what if he did use the information he found through illegal means?  Doesn’t that make it even worse on some level?  What about the father’s possible emotional distress and sense of having had his privacy invaded?

And if the defendant used the information he obtained from the e-mails to confront his father, then how was he acquitted on charges on intercepting e-mails? I really wish I had more information on this case.

The more I think about it, the more I don’t “get” this case or the judge’s sentencing. Tempering justice with mercy is A Good Thing, and maybe that’s what happened here, but what about the next case where someone explains why they felt the need to install a keylogger or spyware on someone else’s computer? For example, should all spouses who snoop on their spouse’s e-mail for fear they’re having an affair that could destroy the marriage receive probation instead of jail time?   Are we on a very slippery slope here with this sentencing?

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