Crystal Goan Hawk
In Civil Lawsuit
BY KEN LITTLE
Computer spyware, altered documents and emails, and other alleged acts of deception are all elements of a contentious federal case involving Greeneville lawyer Crystal Goan Hawk and her ex-husband, former Greeneville businessman James Roy Klumb.
A federal judge ruled in favor of plaintiff Klumb last week in the civil lawsuit that he filed against his ex-wife in June 2009. The filing came about five months after their divorce.
(The case was not a criminal court matter, and the U.S. Attorney's office was not involved.)
In a detailed 46-page ruling filed July 19, U.S. Magistrate Judge William B. Mitchell Carter found that Goan, as she is listed in court documents, violated both the federal Wiretap Act and the Tennessee Wiretap Act "by installing spyware on Klumb's computers without his consent to intercept his incoming email."
The ruling stems from evidence presented during a two-week bench trial in December 2011 in U.S. District Court in Greeneville.
Judge Carter, of Chattanooga, was named to preside over the case after Greeneville's federal judges recused themselves from it.
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."
In addition, the court awarded Klumb punitive damages of $10,000 from Goan because, the judge wrote, her violation of the wiretap acts "was part of a larger scheme to gain advantage of the plaintiff during their divorce."
At one point in the ruling Judge Carter states that her conduct relative to the "larger scheme" was "extreme and outrageous and merits punitive damages."
MOTION IS PLANNED
Goan's lawyer in the Klumb lawsuit, Thomas C. Jessee, of Johnson City, said Wednesday in a telephone interview that he will file a motion within the next two weeks "for the judge to reconsider certain findings in the ruling."
Jessee said that, depending on how Judge 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.
Klumb's lawyer, Hugh B. Ward Jr., of Knoxville, made a brief statement about the ruling Wednesday in a telephone interview.
"The judge did a thorough job," Ward said.
In addition to the lawsuit, Klumb has filed a complaint concerning Goan's actions with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility (BOPR), the administrative agency of the Supreme Court of Tennessee which monitors the professional conduct of lawyers in the state.
The BOPR investigates complaints in a deliberate and highly confidential manner, and takes disciplinary action when the Board considers it appropriate.
When some forms of disciplinary action are taken, the BOPR makes its action public. Otherwise, the Board's actions remain confidential.
A spokeswoman for the board said Wednesday that she could not confirm or comment on any pending investigation.
Klumb formerly directed the local operations of the family-owned Klumb Lumber Co. (KLC) here. He is no longer involved in the company but continues to live in Greeneville.
Goan is married to state Rep. David Hawk, R-5th, of Greeneville. She is also the current president of the Greene County Republican Women.
A domestic assault case against Rep. Hawk, based on allegations made by his wife on March 18, is pending in Greene County General Sessions Court.
Crystal Hawk told deputies that her husband struck her in the face with his hand, knocking her to the ground, according to a Sheriff's Department report.
Rep. Hawk, a five-term member of the Tennessee House of Representatives who is a running for re-election, pleaded not guilty to the charge at his initial appearance in Greene County General Sessions Court in March.
He released a brief statement the same day as the court appearance, saying: "I am innocent and did not do what has been alleged against me. I did not harm my wife."
After being continued twice, a preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 11. No trial date has been set so far.
After considering evidence in the case for more than six months, Carter wrote in the 46-page ruling 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."
The judge also 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 46-page 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."
In the end, Judge Carter decided that Klumb's allegations were accurate, and he explains in his ruling how and why he came to that conclusion.
(Please see accompanying news story, Page A-1. In addition, Judge Carter's full ruling is available in the Public Records section at GreenevilleSun.com under the Community tab.)