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Man accused of 'Joe the Plumber' snooping

Oct. 15, 2009 at 7:39 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- An ex-Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police contractor was charged with using a police computer network to find personal information about "Joe the Plumber."

Brett Gerke, 52, of Columbus is charged with attempted unauthorized use of property, a first-degree misdemeanor, for allegedly using a law-enforcement computer network Oct. 16, 2008, to search for information about Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher.

Wurzelbacher is a political commentator, Internet correspondent and former employee of a plumbing contractor who Republican Sen. John McCain referred to as "Joe the Plumber" in an Oct. 15, 2008, presidential election debate with Barack Obama, then a Democratic senator.

Wurzelbacher, 35, was videotaped by ABC News Oct. 12, 2008, questioning Obama about his small-business tax policy during an Ohio campaign stop.

Gerke did not enter a plea, but entered a diversion program Oct. 2, which typically results in the dismissal of a criminal charge, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Gerke used a test account and password he received to search for information about Wurzelbacher and others, authorities allege.

He was working as a contractor for the Ohio Department of Insurance at the time of the computer checks, the newspaper said.

Gerke's attorney, Joseph Scott of Columbus, would not comment on the case.