Friday, December 25, 2015

The Ex-Wife, "Hacking for Dummies" and Obstructing Official Business

This post examines a recent opinion from the Ohio Court of Appeals – 9th District:  State v. Eggeman, 2015 WL 8553346 (2015).  The court begins the opinion by explaining that “Daniel J. Eggeman, appeals pro se from the judgment of the Wadsworth Municipal Court.”  State v. Eggeman, supra. Wadsworth is a city in Ohio.
The Court of Appeals begins the substantive part of the opinion by explaining that
[o]n December 6, 2013, Eggeman contacted the police to report that he was receiving unwanted emails and phone calls from his ex-wife, Becky Workman. Officer Keith Studer of the Wadsworth Police Department responded to Eggeman's residence on Chestnut Street. Pamela Wingate, Eggeman's fiancée, indicated that she was receiving threatening phone calls from Workman and Eggeman showed Officer Studer emails sent from the email address to his email address. Notably, the email address contained a misspelling of Workman's last name.

The emails expressed a desire for reconciliation and were critical of Ms. Wingate. Officer Studer had Eggeman, in Studer's presence, send an email to becky.workmam, requesting that the contact cease. Several days later, Eggeman again contacted Officer Studer to report that Eggeman had received more emails and wanted Officer Studer to pursue charges against Workman.

Officer Studer then went to Workman's house to interview her. Workman denied any involvement and claimed that she had not had contact with Eggeman since the summer. She indicated that the last time she saw Eggeman, he asked her to complete a statement and have it notarized. When she refused, Eggeman became very upset and told her she would be hearing from his lawyer.

A few days later, Eggeman forwarded Officer Studer another email sent from the That email included references that the sender and  Eggeman had previously discussed ways to kill Wingate so the two could be together. Given the content, subpoenas were issued to Google for the Internet Protocol (`IP’) addresses of the Chestnut street address and the becky.workmam Gmail account for the period from December 6, 2013 through December 23, 2013. Records revealed that the Gmail account was created July 25, 2013, and was accessed from two IP addresses during the December time frame.

Police then sent a subpoena to Frontier Communications, which is the cable internet provider associated with the IP addresses. The sum of the records indicated that the account was accessed, during the relevant time period, from Chestnut Street; specifically the address where Eggeman and Wingate lived. Laptop computers were seized from the Chestnut Street address and were analyzed by Officer Joshua Cooper, who specializes in computer forensics.

Ultimately, complaints were filed against Eggeman on February 3, 2014, for two counts of falsification and one count of obstructing official business. While Eggeman initially was subject to a $5,000 cash or surety bond, it was subsequently modified and Eggeman was released on bond. The Medina County Public Defender's Office initially represented Eggeman, but later withdrew after Eggeman retained private counsel. 

Shortly thereafter, that counsel withdrew and Eggeman retained another attorney. The matter proceeded to a jury trial, during which Eggeman was represented by the third attorney. The jury found Eggeman guilty of the charges. Eggeman represented himself at sentencing and his sentence was stayed pending appeal.
State v. Eggeman, supra.  
Eggeman raised a number of issues in his appeal.  This post only examines one of them. The Court of Appeals did not address all of the issues he raised, noting that “[m]any of Eggeman's arguments are not developed in his brief, . . . rely on evidence that was not before the trial court at the time . . . or rely on video or audio testimony that Eggeman asserts does not appear in the transcribed copy.”  State v. Eggeman, supra.  
Eggeman’s first argument was that “here was insufficient evidence to sustain the guilty verdicts.” State v. Eggeman, supra.  The Court of Appeals explained that the
issue of whether a conviction is supported by sufficient evidence is a question of law, which we review de novoState v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380 (Ohio Supreme Court 1997). An appellate court's function when reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction is to examine the evidence admitted at trial to determine whether such evidence, if believed, would convince the average mind of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The relevant inquiry is whether, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Jenks, 61 Ohio St. 3d 259
 (Ohio Supreme Court 1991). . . .
State v. Eggeman, supra.  
The court went on to explain that Eggeman was
found guilty of violating [Ohio Revised Code §] 2921.13(A)(2) and (A)(3) and [Ohio Revised Code §] 2921.31. Ohio Revised Code § 2921.13(A) provides in relevant part that:

No person shall knowingly make a false statement, or knowingly swear or affirm the truth of a false statement previously made, when any of the following applies:
* * *
(2) The statement is made with purpose to incriminate another.
(3) The statement is made with purpose to mislead a public official in performing the public official's official function.

`A person acts knowingly, regardless of his purpose, when he is aware that his conduct will probably cause a certain result or will probably be of a certain nature. A person has knowledge of circumstances when he is aware that such circumstances probably exist.’ Former Ohio Revised Code § 2901.22(B).

’A person acts purposely when it is his specific intention to cause a certain result, or, when the gist of the offense is a prohibition against conduct of a certain nature, regardless of what the offender intends to accomplish thereby, it is his specific intention to engage in conduct of that nature.’ Former Ohio Revised Code § 2901.22(A). A public official includes law enforcement officers. See Ohio Revised Code § R.C. 2921.01(A).

Ohio Revised Code § 2921.31(A) states that `[n]o person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official's official capacity, shall do any act that hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of the public official's lawful duties.’ `The making of an unsworn false oral statement to a public official with the purpose to mislead, hamper or impede the investigation of a crime is punishable conduct within the meaning of Ohio Revised Code §§ 2921.13(A)(3) and 2921.31(A).’ State v. Lazzaro, 76 Ohio St.3d 261 (Ohio Supreme Court 1996).

Nonetheless, `in order to have sufficient evidence to affirm an obstruction of official business conviction, there must be evidence that the defendant's actions hampered or impeded a law enforcement investigation and that the defendant intended such a result to occur.’ State v. Jordan, , 2014–Ohio–2857 (Ohio Court of Appeals 9th District 2014) ¶ 40.
State v. Eggeman, supra.  
The Court of Appeals then noted that Eggeman’s argument
seems to focus on whether there was sufficient evidence that he was the individual responsible for sending the emails at issue. `The identity of a perpetrator must be proved by the State beyond a reasonable doubt.’ State v. Taylor, 2015–Ohio–403, ¶ 6 (Ohio Court of Appeals 9th District 2015). `[H]owever, identity may be proved by direct or circumstantial evidence, which do not differ with respect to probative value.’ State v. Taylor, supra. Thus, our review will accordingly be limited to whether there was sufficient evidence that Mr. Eggeman committed the crimes.

After reviewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, and given  Eggeman's limited arguments, we determine sufficient evidence was presented to sustain the guilty verdicts. The circumstantial evidence would allow a trier of fact to find that Eggeman sent the emails at issue to himself from the account and that he nonetheless contacted the police on December 6, 2013, asserting that Workman sent him the emails in order to get Workman in trouble.

Workman testified at trial and denied sending the emails or even contacting Eggeman during the relevant period. She also indicated that the last time she saw Eggeman he had tried to get her to sign a notarized statement, which she refused to do. Workman indicated that Mr. Eggeman became very upset at her refusal to comply.

After Eggeman continued to report that he was receiving emails from the account, police subpoenaed Google for the IP addresses associated with the Gmail account. Officer Cooper, who specializes in computer forensics, explained that anyone can create an email account through Gmail and the person doing so would not have to supply truthful information.

Officer Cooper testified that every computer that is on the internet is assigned an IP address. He stated that an IP address is `like a home address for the computer.’ Officer Cooper further testified that there are too many devices that connect to the internet to have static IP addresses, and thus, the internet providers have to change the IP addresses over time to allow other devices to connect.

With respect to the Gmail account at issue, which was created on July 25, 2013, two IP addresses were associated with it during the relevant December 2013 time frame, one ending in .183.198 and one ending in .178.134. On December 6, 2013, the Gmail account was accessed from the .178.134 address. From December 16, 2013, through December 23, 2013, the Gmail account was accessed from the .183.198 address. Officer Studer testified that the dates and times of the emails corresponded to the login information received from Google.
State v. Eggeman, supra.  
The Court of Appeals continued, explaining that a search of the
IP addresses was then run using a website to determine the internet provider associated with the addresses. The internet provider of the two IP addresses was Frontier Communications. Frontier Communications was then subpoenaed, and its records indicated that from December 6, 2013 through December 23, 2013, two physical addresses were associated with the IP addresses; one of which was not associated with Eggeman and instead belonged to an individual who lived in Medina. The other physical address associated with the IP addresses was Eggeman's address on Chestnut Street.

According to Frontier Communications' records, from December 3, 2013 until December 11, 2013, the .178.134 address was associated with the Chestnut Street address and from December 11, 2013 until December 25, 2013, the .183 .198 address was associated with the Chestnut Street address. While the .178.134 address was associated with the Medina household from December 14, 2013 onward, Google's records do not indicate that the Gmail account was accessed from the .178.134 address during that time frame. Accordingly, there was evidence that the Gmail account was only accessed at the Chestnut Street address, where Eggeman resided, during the relevant time frame.

Additionally, police seized two laptop computers from the Chestnut street address. While Wingate, Eggeman, Eggeman's father, and three children all lived at the Chestnut Street address, Wingate testified that she did not send the emails and the children were not allowed to use the computers. Additionally, she testified that Eggeman's father was not often home during the day or on weekends. Officer Cooper created an exact copy of the images of both hard drives and then processed both through forensic software.

The software allowed Officer Cooper to search through the data on the hard drives for phrases. In this case, Officer Cooper chose `Workmam’ as a search term. The search returned 80 plus results. One of the results appeared to Officer Cooper to be the code for a Google login screen that included the account as a login option. Additionally, the internet search history of one of the computers included `How do I trace the Gmail account?[,]’ `Google account recovery[,]’ `Google delete account activity [,]’ `how to cure Gmail activity[,]’ and `remove picture from Google email.’ There was also evidence that that computer was used to access Mr. Eggeman's email account.

The second computer had documents saved on it related to computer hacking included, `Secrets of a Super Hacker[,]’ `FBI Situational Information Report, Sovereign Citizens and the Internet[,]” “Guide to Mostly Harmless Hacking[,]’ and `Hacking For Dummies.’ Additionally, there was a document that listed common computer passwords. Finally, there was a document on the computer entitled, `Screw the B*tch, Divorce Tactics for Men.’ During his testimony, Eggeman admitted that the searches and documents were his.

Moreover, when Officer Studer spoke with Eggeman about the charges, Eggeman seemed fairly knowledgeable about computers and IP addresses; he even indicated he had his own IP address memorized.
State v. Eggeman, supra.  
The Court of Appeals then explained that, given
all of the foregoing, and viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, we conclude the State presented sufficient evidence that would allow a trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Eggeman was the person responsible for sending the emails, that he lied to the police in order to incriminate Workman, and that by doing so he hindered a police officer in the performance of his duties. There was circumstantial evidence that the emails were sent from Chestnut Street, where Eggeman resided. There was also circumstantial evidence that Eggeman was the person who sent the emails.

The jury could have found it suspicious that the account included a misspelling of Workman's name and found it unlikely that Workman would have misspelled her own name if she created the email address. Additionally, there was evidence that Eggeman was interested in how Gmail accounts work and how to alter their activity. Finally, there was evidence that Eggeman had a disagreement with  Workman the last time he saw her and that Eggeman may have held a grudge against her in light of some of the documents kept on the computers in the house on Chestnut Street. Overall, we cannot say that the State failed to produce sufficient evidence that Eggeman was the person involved in these crimes.
State v. Eggeman, supra.  

For these and other reasons, which you can read about in the court’s opinion, a link to which was included above, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Wadsworth Municipal Court. State v. Eggeman, supra.  

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