A West Virginia sheriff charged with hacking his former wife’s work computer has agreed to plead guilty in federal court.
Prosecutors this month filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Charleston requesting a plea hearing for Clay County Sheriff Miles Slack. Judge John Copenhaver has scheduled the hearing for Sept. 17.
A federal information charged Slack with illegal wiretapping. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Slack declined comment Friday when contacted at his office. State law does not require a sheriff to resign while facing charges.
The scheduling of the plea hearing was first reported by The Charleston Gazette.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin has said Slack secretly installed a keystroke logger on a computer in the Clay County Magistrate Court office in April, when he and his wife were still married. Prosecutors haven’t commented on the motive, but the couple has since divorced.
Goodwin said the machine that Slack’s wife worked on belongs to the state Supreme Court of Appeals and is connected to a statewide computer network. The spying device remained in place for two weeks, he said, and Slack successfully intercepted emails, messages and other data from the computer.
Spyware devices like the kind Slack is accused of using can be purchased online and typically are just 1-2 inches long and attached to the keyboard cable, Goodwin said. Once installed, they can intercept anything typed on that keyboard.
Goodwin says they are unobtrusive and normally hidden, so they can go undetected for long periods. Some keystroke loggers can store as much as 2 gigabytes of data — or more than 1 billion keystrokes.
Slack ran unopposed for sheriff last November after defeating two other contenders in the Democratic primary in May 2012, winning the nomination with nearly 78 percent of the vote.
Since taking office in January, Slack expanded evening patrols and sought funding for a new officer to monitor people serving home-confinement sentences in the county.
County Commission President Mike Pierson has commended Slack’s work.
“He’s done a good job — much better than the previous sheriff,” Pierson said. “He just messed up, and he understands that. ... We hate to see this situation.”