Employee gets jail for computer use: Justice?

Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go: Nobody thinks using a work computer on work time to exchange off-color graphics or look for a “companion” is a good thing. But should a user go to jail for it? That’s what happened when 

the boss of an Ohio man discovered the employee uploaded a nude photo of himself and hired a dominatrix online when he was supposed to be working.

The story — in brief:

In April of 2006, Richard Wolf worked at the Shelby City Wastewater Treatment Plant,where he had access to a work computer. His boss at the plant found a nude photograph of Wolf on that city-owned computer.

His boss passed the problem up the line to another supervisor, who called the police.

Their investigation found that Wolf spent 100 hours on the clock cruising adult-themed Web sites, where he was looking for — and ultimately found and hired — a professional dominatrix.

Wolf fessed up to using his work computer inappropriately and said that his behavior was “unethical and wrong.”

The zealous local prosecutor charged Wolf with a number of crimes, including “Unauthorized access to a computer.” Under Ohio law, this is a felony.  Wolf was convicted and sentenced to 15 months in prison, ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and ordered to pay restitution of $2,392 to the city for the 100 hours of wages.

On another charge, one count of solicitation (for soliciting a prostitute), Wolf was sentenced to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The “hacking” law under which Wolf was charged was originally intended to convict malicious thieves who inappropriately access sensitive records outside the scope of their job responsibilities.  For example, a bank employee who accesses and sells a credit card database.

It’s hard to imagine that lawmakers envisioned sending to prison lonely, frustrated guys looking for love in all the wrong places.

While Wolf surely deserved to lose his job for slacking off at work and using his work computer for tasks totally unrelated to his job, did he deserve to have his life ruined too?

All this points to the very real need for companies of all shapes and sizes to create detailed acceptable use policies that instruct supervisors on how to handle misuse of company technology.

If Wolf’s supervisor had clear direction on how to handle a problem like Wolf, the case might not have gotten out of hand.

0 thoughts on “Employee gets jail for computer use: Justice?”

  1. Hmmm…15 months in jail for using the company computer to fulfill his disturbing sexual fantasies, may have been a bit harsh. Yes, what he did was disturbing, wrong, and unethical, but was it really illegal; was it really “hacking”? You would be amazed by some professionals that have the same fettish (of course NOT me). They just do it in the privacy of their own home.

  2. The guy was an idiot to do this. But he was a government employee, so it figures. I say throw the book at him. I’m surprised he got fired (doesn’t say he did, though). Perhaps he can sue to get his job back when he gets out, citing some technicality or perhaps have the union go to bat for him.

  3. Angie:

    Stealing from the good people of Ohio is and should be illeagle and should be prosecutied. Hat off to the DA that found a way.

  4. What has been served here? Dock the poor guy two weeks pay, put him on reprimand/probation and get on with life. The one who should be fired is his supervisor who obviously didn’t have a clue what the guy was doing with his time. Or maybe in Ohio state employees aren’t expected to fulfill productivity goals or accountability. In that case, he obviously did no harm!

  5. Imagine the damage congress would do if not preoccupied with similiar activities at taxpayer expense. Ohio should replace Congressman Traficut with this truthful guy. With his honesty and declared preoccupation with HDTV, the people could place him in Congress and soon thereafter the White House. At least he wouldn’t conformise the FBI,the CIA, the military, NASA, Smart Grid, monetary system, medicine, transportation, prision system by release of known terrorist and accumulate national debt beyond repair to taxpayers.

  6. What an incredible story!

    The guy wrongly uses his employer’s (government, publicly-funded) resources to pursue his own agenda, presumably due to inadequate supervision by his publicly-funded line manager.

    The response, instead of simply firing him, is to involve him in prosecution at public expense, and resulting in him being jailed AT PUBLIC EXPENSE for 15 months.

    He has to pay restitution to the city for 100 hours of his wages. Whoopie! And a fine of $5,500 for his offences. Double whoopie!

    He gets the added bonus of being a convict, making any future employment more difficult, but I guess that is the rules for anyone with a sexuality that doesn’t conform to the missionary hetero persuasion…

    Where is the common sense of all those involved in this farce?

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