Is Sarah Palin a “Victim” of Computer Hacking

Over at Sentencing Law and Policy last week, Professor Doug Berman had this interesting post on the recent conviction of a hacker who hacked into Sarah Palin’s Yahoo mail account.

 One of the intriguing questions that he raises is whether Sarah Palin would be considered a “victim” of the crime under the Crime Victims Rights Act (CVRA), thereby eligible to give a victim impact statement (either or orally or in writing) when the hacker is sentenced.  The answer to that question, I believe, is clearly “yes.”  

The indictment in the case, found here, alleges (in count 3, one of the counts of conviction) that the defendant  “in furtherance of the commission of a criminal and tortious act in violation of the laws of the United States and the State of Tennessee, including aiding and abetting other violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)(C) . . . ; and tortious invasion of privacy, intentionally and without authorization, and in excess of authorization, accessed a protected computer by means of an interstate communication and thereby obtained information . . . .” 

The CVRA requires that a person be “directly and proximately” harmed by an offense to be protected by the statute.  Given that the indictment itself alleges a “tortious invasion of privacy” committed against Palin, it seems clear that she qualifies for protected victim status. 

Sarah Palin has condemned the crime  — and applauded the recent verdict — on her Facebook page.  It is probable that the Probation Officer preparing the pre-sentence report will contact her.  Perhaps she will want to pass along comments directly to the judge as well.  If so, like every other “victim” of a federal crime, the Crime Victims’ Rights Act gives her that right.

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