EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSClay County Sheriff Charged With Illegal Wiretapping
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Jeff Morris
Web Producer: Jeff Morris
Reported: Aug. 5, 2013 12:59 PM EDT
Updated: Aug. 6, 2013 8:16 AM EDT
Clay , Clay County , West Virginia
Clay County Sheriff Miles J. “Mike” Slack has been charged with illegal wiretapping, a federal felony that can carry up to five years in prison, the U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin’s Office said.
In a criminal case filed Monday afternoon, Goodwin charged Slack with surreptitiously installing a keystroke logger on a computer belonging to the West Virginia Supreme Court.
According to court documents, the compromised computer was a government computer assigned to Slack’s then wife, identified as “Victim L.S.,” 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 Supreme Court and are connected to a central Supreme Court computer network.
Slack installed the hidden device in late April of this year, said Goodwin and Steven Ruby, the assistant federal prosecutor who signed Monday’s charge. The device remained in place for more than two weeks, intercepting messages and data transmitted from L.S.’s Supreme Court computer, officials said.
Keystroke logging devices can be purchased from a number of Internet-based sellers. The devices, usually 1 to 2 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 about 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. Ro remain in the race, Slack resigned from the department and became chief of police for the town of Clay, 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 percent of the vote. Slack ran unopposed in the November 2012 general election and took office Jan. 1. Slack’s first projects as sheriff included expanding evening patrols and seeking funding for a new home confinement officer.
Slack was charged in a court filing known as an information, which ordinarily indicates that a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors. No hearing date has been set.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and the West Virginia State Police, with assistance from the state Supreme Court. The prosecution is being handled by Steven Ruby and Haley Bunn, prosecutors in Goodwin’s office.
Slack's ex-wife issued a statement saying, "I am sure he is cooperating fully with authorities because that is the kind of man he has always been." Her attorney says she would also like to remind everyone of his years of dedicated law enforcement work in Clay County and says she doesn't wish any misfortune upon him. The two were married for 17 years.
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