Kalama City Council member Matthew Merz was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of computer trespassing, electronic data theft and spoofing after accessing another council member’s computer without permission, according to the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office.
In January, Merz, 42, went to the sheriff’s office to report what he believed to be misconduct by the Kalama mayor, police chief and a fellow city council member, according to the sheriff’s office press release. Merz’s allegations, if proven, would not constitute criminal violations, the sheriff’s office stated.
While making this report, Merz implicated himself in unlawfully accessing the account of another city council member, according to the sheriff’s office. Merz told deputies he had accessed a fellow city council member’s city email by “guessing” his account password and printed emails the council member sent to the police chief and Kalama citizens. Merz provided copies of these emails to the sheriff’s office.
Merz was arrested and booked Tuesday into the Cowlitz County Jail on suspicion of four counts of computer trespassing, electronic data theft and four counts of spoofing.
Under state law, intentionally gaining access to a computer system or electronic database of another person without permission constitutes first-degree computer trespassing. The violation is a Class C felony when it involves a computer or database maintained by a government agency.
Electronic data theft, a Class C felony, includes intentionally, without authorization, and without reasonable grounds to believe they have authorization, obtaining electronic data with the intent to wrongfully control or gain access to the data.
Using someone else’s password constitutes spoofing by knowingly initiating the transmission of identifying information of another organization or person for the purpose of gaining unauthorized access to electronic data, a data system, or a data network with the intent to commit another crime. Spoofing is a gross misdemeanor.