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Yahoo Turns Over E-mail Files To Dead Marine's Family ! - 4/22/2005 8:34:11 AM   

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WIXOM, Mich. (AP) -- The family of a Marine killed in Iraq has run into disappointment in its long effort to recover e-mail messages he wrote before his death. Yahoo Inc. said Thursday that it would make sure the family got what it was seeking.

Lance Cpl. Justin M. Ellsworth, 20, was killed Nov. 13 while inspecting a bomb during a foot patrol in Al Anbar province. After his death, his father, John Ellsworth, found himself in a legal battle with Yahoo when he tried to gain access to his son's e-mail account.

Under court order, Yahoo on Wednesday turned over a CD that it said included the contents of the Marine's e-mail account.

But when his father inserted the disc, he said he was only able to find e-mails his son had received and nothing he had sent.

"Maybe that's all he had. ... Maybe that's all he did. ... I'm not sure what I've got in front of me," the Wixom man told The Detroit News as he shook his head and peered into the text on his computer screen.

A spokeswoman for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo said the CD would have contained the Marine's outgoing as well as his incoming e-mail messages.

"We will do whatever it takes to help Mr. Ellsworth access all of the files on the disc," Mary Osako told The Associated Press on Thursday. She said Yahoo would deliver a paper copy of the contents to the family early next week.

In seven hours of combing through more than 10,000 pages of material Wednesday, the family said it did not find any e-mails written by the younger Ellsworth, even those he previously had sent home.

Instead, the family found their own messages to him, spam from mortgage companies and online dating services and a few e-mails from people his parents had never heard of. The family contacted Yahoo on Wednesday night, and the company said it was attempting to resolve the problem.

The experience left his father fiercely determined and stepmother Debbie Ellsworth upset that Yahoo did not simply give the family Justin Ellsworth's password.

"That's the only way we would have had everything for sure," she said. "What are we supposed to do with this?"

On Wednesday, Oakland County Probate Judge Eugene Arthur Moore signed an order directing Yahoo to produce and deliver the contents of Justin's e-mail account.

The decision elated John and Debbie Ellsworth, and for a brief moment, their anxiety gave way to wide smiles and tears of joy.

Yahoo originally refused to hand over account details but did not fight the court order.

"We are pleased that the court has issued an order resolving this matter, satisfying Mr. Ellsworth's request as representative of his son's estate, and allowing Yahoo to continue to uphold our privacy commitment to our users," Osako told AP.

Ellsworth family lawyer Brian Dailey said, "There was a lot of negotiating going on and a lot of telephone calls, and almost from the minute I got involved, there was a very quick meeting of the minds. They recognized their legal responsibilities."

The Ellsworth case could set a pattern for other courts, said Jennifer Granick, executive director of the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society.

"The family got a court order, and that's an appropriate process," Granick said. "Yahoo is allowed to disclose this stuff under the law."

Justin Ellsworth's job was to locate and destroy hidden bombs. He discovered a homemade explosive while out on patrol and moved toward the bomb to investigate it.

Discovering the device lacked wires and likely was remote-controlled, Justin warned his fellow Marines to clear the area but was caught by the blast.

Source : The Detroit News
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