Friday, December 14, 2012

Emails Sent from Work Not Covered By Spousal Privilege

US v. Hamilton: Hamilton was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.  He communicated with Old Dominion University about a new center for teaching it was looking to build, with state funds.  In conversations between Hamilton and ODU (and Hamilton's wife), he made repeated references to pushing funding through the legislature and possibly coming to work at the center.  Many of these conversations took place over Email, Hamilton using his work Email account.  After Hamilton introduced legislation for $1 million worth of funding for the ODU center, he was offered a job there.  As a result of all this, Hamilton was charged and convicted of bribery concerning federal program funds and extortion under color of official right.  He was sentenced to 114 months.

On appeal, Hamilton challenged both his convictions and sentence, all of which the Fourth Circuit affirmed.  Hamilton first argued that the introduction of Emails between he and his wife violated spousal privilege.  The court agreed that there is a general expectation of privacy in such Emails, but concluded that because Hamilton sent the Emails from a work computer and "did not take any steps to protect" their content they were not privileged.  Second, Hamilton challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions, which the court found was sufficient.  Third, he argued that the district court erred by not instructing the jury on the difference between a bribe and a gratuity, which the court rejected because the matter of intent had been sufficiently covered in the instructions.  Finally, the court affirmed the district court's calculation of the advisory Guideline range.

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