A former Merced worker for state Sen. Jeff Denham who was accused of illegally accessing an e-mail account belonging to a co-worker pleaded guilty Friday to an infraction.
Legaldictionary.com defines infraction as the violation of a particular statute for which the penalty is minor, such as a parking infraction.
Kristine Hansen, 27, had been facing one felony count of unlawful access to a computer system in Stanislaus County. The felony charge was dropped, and Hansen pleaded guilty to accessing another person's e-mail without permission, which is an infraction.
Hansen's attorney, Jeff Tenenbaum, had said his client was the target of petty office quarreling that got out of hand.
Stanislaus County sheriff's deputies began their investigation of Hansen after alleged victim Mia Brudnicki, a district representative for Denham, reported someone had accessed her personal e-mail account without her permission.
Deputies learned Brudniki's account was illegally accessed on May 7 and an e-mail was sent from the account to Emily Towner, an office assistant for Denham. The contents of that e-mail led to a reprimand of another Denham worker, executive assistant Dana Ferreira.
Hansen had been arrested and booked into Stanislaus County Jail on July 13. She was immediately released after posting her $15,000 bail.
The arrest of Hansen wasn't the her first run-in with the law. She pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor petty theft charge in January 2009 for stealing two bottles of tequila from a Save Mart store in Merced. At the time of the Oct. 17, 2008, theft incident, she was employed at Denham's Merced office as a field representative. She attended a 12-hour diversion course for first-time offenders and paid a $300 fine. The charge was later dismissed from her record as a deferred entry of judgment.
If Hansen had been convicted of the felony charge for the May incident, she would have faced a maximum of three years in prison and a fine of $12,000.
"The felony was dropped and Kristine pleaded to a significantly reduced charge," Tenenbaum said. "She's very glad to put this behind her."
Tenenbaum said Hansen pleaded guilty to an infraction, which is lower than a misdemeanor, he said. He compared it to getting a getting a traffic ticket.
Hansen was fined $1,000 and will have to do 100 hours of community service.
"We're very happy that the district attorney agreed to the substantial reduction," Tenenbaum said.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org