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Man charged with computer misuse released, gets probation

October 31, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - A Hagerstown man who was charged with using spy software to monitor his estranged wife's computer was released from jail on suspended sentences Monday during a Washington County Circuit Court hearing.

James Stephen Ostmann Sr., 40, of 990 Monroe Ave., entered Alford pleas to harassment, making a false statement to a police officer, two counts of violation of a protection order and three counts of computer misuse in connection with charged acts against his estranged wife from Aug. 1, 2005, to April 1, 2006.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but admits that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to gain a conviction on the charges.

Ostmann, who has been held at Washington County Detention Center since his April arrest, was given credit for time served, negating part or all of some lesser sentences, and was ordered to serve five years of probation, the first 18 months of which were ordered supervised.

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Ostmann's attorney, John P. Corderman, told Wright, "He's not a threat to Mrs. Ostmann and he's not a threat to the community."

Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III suspended a three-year prison sentence on the computer charges and ordered a consecutive one-year, five-month suspended sentence on the protection order charges. Wright ordered Ostmann to have no contact with his estranged wife.

Ostmann had computer software installed on his estranged wife's computer that enabled him to monitor correspondence with her divorce attorney and to access records of her phone accounts, said Special Prosecutor Teresa Bean, a Frederick County (Md.) assistant state's attorney assigned to the case.

Bean said Washington County Sheriff's Department investigators observed Ostmann watching his wife at Long Meadow Shopping Center in April. Tags that Ostmann reported stolen from his truck were found in his house by investigators when they searched his home using a warrant, she said.

On Monday, Ostmann told Wright through tears that his life was changed when he was struck by a drunken driver in July 2004. Ostmann said he was "on countless, different medications" and could not care for his children because of his injuries. He said his wife asked for a divorce one year after the accident.

He said he had "too much pride" to ask his family for help after his life changed, but he said he is reaching out now.

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