First reported 8/7/2009 5:06 p.m.
Three years after a former council member and one-time mayoral challenger accused public officials of hacking into her e-mail account, allegations lodged against Mayor Anthony Calderone have been thrown out.
In an Aug. 5 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel responded to a motion filed in July by the mayor's attorneys. Zagel had already ruled that Terry Steinbach, who named Calderone and a police officer as defendants, had not made her allegations soon enough. Several of the charges against the mayor were then dropped.
Upon reviewing Calderone's latest motion, however, the judge agreed that the statute should apply to all the accusations against the mayor and dismissed him from the case entirely.
"It's hard to feel vindicated in any sense because I've always felt from day one that this was some kind of ridiculous lawsuit," Calderone said of the ruling.
Allegations that at least one other municipal employee conspired with the mayor to surreptitiously view Steinbach's e-mail still stand. That employee, officer Craig Lundt, has not yet asked the court to decide whether the statute of limitations has expired.
Steinbach's attorney, Charles Mudd, said Calderone's case had "unique circumstances" that do not apply to other defendants in the same way. Given those differences, he said, the ruling won't necessarily eviscerate his client's case.
In a statement released through her attorney, Steinbach maintained that her privacy rights had been violated and that evidence in the case supports that claim.
"The lawsuit has never been about harming any particular individual politically or economically," Steinbach said in a prepared statement. "It was and remains a pursuit for accountability for what clearly constitutes violations of privacy and federal law."
In December 2008, a computer forensics firm informed the court that Calderone's laptop had in fact been used to access several e-mail accounts belonging to political rivals. On June 2, 2006, according to court records, the mayor's laptop was used for three minutes to view municipal e-mail accounts belonging to former village administrator Mike Sturino, former public works director Bob Kutak, former police lieutenant Steve Johnsen, former commissioners Patrick Doolin and Steinbach.
The user logged into the system under an e-mail address assigned to Lundt.
"One e-mail was read during the session," James Murray, director of forensic services for Elijah Technologies, told the court. The message was a test e-mail sent to Steinbach's account.
In response to that 2008 report, Steinbach argued that employee records indicate Lundt was out sick on June 2, 2006, and could not have been the person using the mayor's laptop.
"I positively never accessed any e-mails other than my own," Calderone said of the evidence in the case.
In an earlier attempt to have the charges against the mayor dismissed, his attorneys had argued that if Calderone had viewed the e-mails, he had a right to do so as mayor. The judge, however, said the mayor is not immune to prosecution because his reasons for reading the e-mails would have had nothing to do with his official duties.
"At least evidence has been made publicly available that justifies my client having filed the suit," Mudd, Steinbach's attorney, said in a prepared statement. "As the court has stated, carte blanche unauthorized access to e-mail of elected officials is not supported under law. Such behavior should not be tolerated by a public body or its citizens."