BY KEN LITTLE
Crystal Goan Hawk's motion for a new civil trial has been denied by a federal judge.
U.S. Magistrate Judge William B. Mitchell Carter also denied Hawk's motion to amend a judgment awarding the plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, James Roy Klumb, $10,000 in statutory damages and $10,000 in punitive damages.
The contentious civil case was filed by Goan's ex-husband, Klumb, a former Greeneville businessman.
Crystal Goan, as she is referred to in the legal action, is currently married to state Rep. David Hawk, R-5th, of Greeneville.
The couple is not living together while a legal action based on a domestic assault allegation made by Crystal Hawk against David Hawk plays out in the local court system.
The case has been bound over to the Greene County Criminal Court Grand Jury. It could be presented to the grand jury as early as late November.
Goan, a Greeneville lawyer, divorced Klumb prior to her marriage to Hawk.
Klumb claimed in the lawsuit that, during his marriage to Goan, she installed spyware on his business computers without his knowledge, altered documents and e-mails, and committed other acts of deception calculated by Goan to receive a favorable divorce settlement.
A bench trial in December 2011 in U.S. District Court in Greeneville ended with a ruling in favor of Klumb.
In a 44-page memorandum issued by the judge in July, Carter concluded that Klumb prevailed "on his claims that [Goan] had violated the federal Wiretap Act [and] the Tennessee Wiretap Act" by installing spyware on the computers of Klumb's employers to intercept his incoming email.
Klumb also sought punitive damages that can be recovered under the federal and state wiretap statutes.
BASIS OF NEW TRIAL MOTION
The basis of Goan's motion for a new trial was an email sent by Klumb's lawyer, Hugh B. Ward Jr., to the court shortly after the bench trial "but some months before the court issued its decision," the order states.
"Because the information in said email had absolutely no effect on the court's decision in this case, defendant's motion for a new trial is denied," the order filed on Monday states.
Carter described the contents of the email in his order.
The judge's order on the motion for a new trial states that "in an effort to ameliorate punitive damages which might be awarded against her, [Goan] introduced evidence at trial that [Klumb] had harassed her and engaged in 'conduct border[ing] on stalking' since their divorce."
Ward subsequently sent an email to Judge Carter's law clerk for the purpose of informing the judge that a Greene County court had granted Goan's petition on her behalf for an order of protection against Klumb.
The email further stated that, while it was not a condition of the Greene County court's order, Klumb voluntarily submitted to bracelet electronic monitoring through an accredited service.
"He has done so because of his concern that he would be subject to additional accusation," the email stated.
The judge wrote that "it appears" Ward intended to send a copy of the mail to Goan's lawyer, Thomas C. Jessee, but did not.
FOCUS OF MOTION
Goan first became aware of the email when Ward discussed it in response to Goan's motion to alter the court's judgment and memorandum opinion.
Goan asked for a new trial on the grounds that the court's decision in the case "was made using evidence of which she was not aware and had no opportunity to address," the opinion states.
Judge Carter elaborated on the reason for the motion denial.
"As set out in the court's preferences on the U.S. District Court website, communications are allowed between counsel and my law clerk.
"Specifically, the preferences state that such communication is 'permitted although obviously matters involving the merits of pending actions or suits should be avoided," the judge wrote.
"Nevertheless, it was inappropriate for plaintiff's counsel to send an email to the court without copying it to defendant's counsel, and it was certainly inappropriate for plaintiff's counsel to submit to the court new information on matters bearing on an issue litigated in this case, no matter how small the issue," the order states.
EMAIL 'NOT CONSIDERED'
Carter repeated the reason why the motion was denied.
"In reaching its decision, the court relied only upon the evidence presented in the four-day bench trial on this case. Before issuing its decision in this case, the court read the transcripts of the testimony presented at the trial and carefully examined the exhibits introduced into evidence," the order states.
The order continues: "The offending email was not considered and, frankly, was long forgotten when the court reached its decision and memorialized it in a 44-page written opinion. The email simply has no bearing whatsoever on the court's decision and the defendant has suffered no prejudice by it."
Judge Carter, of Chattanooga, was named to preside over the case after Greeneville's federal judges recused themselves.
The court awarded Klumb $10,000 in statutory damages from Goan as well as "his reasonable attorney's fees and expenses, and his costs of action."
The court additionally awarded Klumb punitive damages of $10,000 from Goan because, Carter wrote in the memorandum opinion, her violation of the wiretap acts "was part of a larger scheme to gain advantage of the plaintiff during their divorce."
'EXTREME AND OUTRAGEOUS' CONDUCT
At one point in the ruling, Carter wrote that Goan's conduct relative to the "larger scheme" was "extreme and outrageous and merits punitive damages."
Jessee, of Johnson City, said in a telephone interview after the judge's opinion was put into the record that he would file the motion for a new trial "for the judge to reconsider certain findings in the ruling."
Jessee said at the time that, depending on how Carter responds to the motion, the July 19 ruling could end up before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which includes Tennessee.
After considering evidence in the case for more than six months, Carter wrote in the July opinion that Goan's actions constituted violations of the Tennessee and federal wiretap acts, specifically "where spouses resort to computer espionage as weapons of domestic warfare when their marriage sours."
NO 'GARDEN VARIETY' CASE
The judge noted that the case is not a "garden variety" example of one spouse putting spyware on the other's computer to eavesdrop electronically.
He wrote in the judgment that Klumb claimed in his lawsuit that Goan "engaged in an elaborate, deceptive scheme which involved wiretapping his computer to intercept emails" and "altering those emails to make it appear he was having an affair, and altering legal documents in order to provide that if [Klumb] did have an affair, [Goan] would receive more money in a divorce."
Carter ultimately decided that Klumb's allegations were accurate, and detailed his reasoning in his July ruling.