Is the Fox Mole a criminal?
Gawker and Fox News fans alike are contemplating this question now that associate producer Joe Muto has positively identified himself as the Fox Mole. He has admitted to posting behind the scenes videos of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in hopes of exposing the "seedy underbelly" of the cable news station.
Though undoubtedly enough to earn him a pink slip, can Muto's actions also earn him a conviction?
Fox News seems to think so, as evidenced by the letter its lawyers sent Muto after learning of his identity. However, it’s unclear just what was criminal about anonymously posting videos to which Muto was likely given free access.
Still, it’s possible that Muto violated one of New York’s computer tampering laws, explains Forbes. That law prohibits the “unlawful duplication of computer related material … [that] wrongfully deprives or appropriates from an owner an economic value in excess of $2,500.” Gawker reportedly paid the Fox Mole $5,000 for his posts and the accompanying videos.
But remember, Fox News had no intention of releasing or selling the videos. It’s therefore arguable that Muto didn’t appropriate or deprive the station of any economic value.
What’s more likely than a Fox Mole criminal conviction is a Fox Mole civil jury award. The letter advises Muto “to preserve all documents and information that may be relevant” to his dealings with Gawker. This is lawyer speak for, “You better get ready to fight this out in court.”
In his role as the Fox Mole, Joe Muto likely violated his employment contract and a confidentiality agreement. He also misappropriated the network’s property. Though not criminal in nature, these infractions can form the basis of a successful civil suit.