A federal judge has levied sanctions on a tobacco heiress’ estranged husband for destroying evidence related to spyware that he secretly installed on his wife’s phone and used to listen in on her calls, including conversations she had with her attorney.

It was the second time that a judge has hit Crocker Coulson, who is locked in a bitter divorce with Anne Resnik in state court, with spoliation sanctions for destroying evidence of bugging Resnik’s phone.

Last year, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Sunshine, who presides over the divorce, struck Coulson’s pleadings regarding any financial relief other than child support after it was found that Coulson used spyware to listen in on conversations that Resnik had with her divorce attorney, as well as track her movements, and that Coulson purchased software that could help him cover his digital tracks.

According to court papers, Coulson destroyed the evidence of his spying after Sunshine issued an order in 2015 for the parties in the divorce to preserve relevant evidence in the case and just before the sheriff seized his computers.

Forensic investigators found evidence that Coulson began spying on Resnik, whose father was a CEO at Philip Morris USA, in October 2014, court papers state, and that the existence of the spyware didn’t come to light until the following February. 

Resnik filed a federal lawsuit against Coulson in 2017, in which she, her mother and her sister allege that Coulson violated the Wiretap Act. Resnik also alleges that Coulson violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and committed trespass to chattels under New York law.

On Jan. 4, U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Gold of the Eastern District of New York, who presides over the federal wiretapping case, issued a spoliation sanction against Coulson, citing the same conduct that Sunshine referred to in his order to strike Coulson’s pleadings.   

Gold said that Resnik should be able to show that she met with a medical professional during the time that her husband was eavesdropping on her without a challenge from Coulson; nor should he be able to preclude the other plaintiffs in the case from showing that they had phone conversations with Resnik during that period.

Nixon Peabody attorneys Daniel Hurteau and Jason Gonzalez represent the plaintiffs. Brian King and David Smith of Smith & King represent Coulson. Neither of the attorneys immediately responded to requests for comment.

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