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Press Release

Clay County Sheriff Charged With Wiretapping

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia

Sheriff Miles Slack Secretly Intercepted Communications from Ex-Wife’s Supreme Court Computer, Federal Prosecutors Say

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin today charged Clay County Sheriff Miles J. “Mike” Slack with illegal wiretapping, a federal felony that can carry up to five years in prison. In a criminal case filed this afternoon, Goodwin charged Sheriff Slack with surreptitiously installing a keystroke logger on a computer belonging to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

According to court documents, the compromised computer was a government computer assigned to Slack’s then wife, identified as “Victim L.S.,” who works in the office of a Clay County magistrate. Computers in the offices of circuit judges and magistrates throughout West Virginia are owned and maintained by the state’s Supreme Court, and are connected to a central Supreme Court computer network.

Sheriff Slack installed the hidden device in late April of this year, said Goodwin and Steven Ruby, the assistant federal prosecutor who signed today’s charge, and it remained in place for over two weeks, intercepting messages and data transmitted from L.S.’s Supreme Court computer.

Keystroke logging devices can be purchased from a number of Internet-based sellers. The devices, usually one to two inches long, are attached to a computer’s keyboard cable. Once installed, they can intercept everything typed on the keyboard, including email and information transmitted to Internet sites.

Because the devices are unobtrusive and normally hidden behind the computer targeted for surveillance, they can go undetected for long periods of time. Though small in size, some keystroke loggers can store two gigabytes of information, enough to record more than a billion keystrokes.

Slack served as a Clay County deputy sheriff for around 16 years. In early 2012, while acting as chief deputy for the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, Slack announced he was running for sheriff. Then-Sheriff Randy Holcomb, however, quickly demoted Slack to the rank of sergeant, a move that threatened Slack’s election bid. Under West Virginia civil service laws, deputy sheriffs other than the chief deputy may not run for public office. In order to remain in the race, Slack resigned from the department and became Chief of Police for Clay, West Virginia, the county seat of Clay County.

In the May 2012 primary election, Slack soundly defeated two other candidates for the Democratic nomination for sheriff, receiving nearly 78% of the vote. He ran unopposed in the November 2012 general election and took office January 1, 2013. Slack’s first projects as sheriff included expanding evening patrols and seeking funding for a new home confinement officer.

Slack was charged in a court filing known as an information, which ordinarily indicates that a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors. No hearing date has been set.

The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the West Virginia State Police, with assistance from the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. The prosecution is being handled by Steven Ruby and Haley Bunn, prosecutors in Goodwin’s office.

Note: The charge contained in an Information is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Click here to view a copy of the information

Updated January 7, 2015