Woman seeks info from Secret Service for her computer spyware suit

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau May 2, 2011, 3:00pm

GALVESTON � Complaining that the U.S. Secret Service Houston Electronic Crimes Task Force is withholding records and information related to its investigation of a criminal complaint for the League City Police Department, Mary Gerke has filed a petition for judicial review in federal court.

According to court papers filed April 18 in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas, Gerke sought the information from the Secret Service as part of her state lawsuit against a League City man she claims placed spyware on her computer. She pursued the information with a valid state subpoena after Freedom of Information Act requests fell through.

The agency asked for and was provided with more information, but denied the complainant's request, court papers state.

Gerke originally filed a lawsuit on Feb. 10, 2009, against Jamil Kantara in the Galveston County 10th District Court after she identified apparent spyware activity on her machine about two years prior. A computer technician looked at the computer and identified the specified spyware threat as IamBigBrother.

Gerke turned her hard drive over to League City police who in turn sent the contents to the Secret Service for analysis. She authorized a search warrant for the agency to examine her computer.

LCPD informed the plaintiff on Aug. 11, 2009, that there were more than 30,000 spyware incidences in the evidence files from data on her hard drive. Efforts to retrieve the hard drive came to no avail, Gerke states.

The plaintiff further explains that she initiated a request last June under the Freedom of Information Act and submitted a couple of subpoenas two months ago to the Secret Service, but was told she could not access the information.

She ultimately sent the Secret Service a notice to preserve the evidence and stated her intention to seek the evidence in federal court last month.

"The petitioner believes the decision of the Secret Service was arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion and violates her rights to a fair trial and due process under the Constitution," the documentation says.

Attorney Lawrence M. Tylka of League City is representing Gerke in her state civil case, which is assigned to Galveston County 10th District Court Judge David Garner.

U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt is tasked to oversee the petition.

Case No. 3:11-cv-00189

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