The Cardinals' Punishment for Hacking the Astros' Email

It began as a cybercrime. Chris Correa, the former director of scouting for the St. Louis Cardinals was charged with unauthorized access of a protected computer (hacking).  Court records (you can find them here) indicated that that Mr. Correa had accessed the Astros “Ground Control” data base 48 times and accessed five Astros’ employees’ emails. “Ground control” was the Astros’ data base that listed their players for recruiting in the order of recruiting.  

Using the five employees' passwords, Mr. Correa was able to access valuable information, particularly the Astros’ director of decision sciences, Sig Mejdal. Mr. Correa entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to 46 months in prison. He also had to pay a fine of $276,038.65.  During the proceedings related to that case, the U.S. attorney prosecuting the case indicated that he felt that Mr. Correa was also responsible for the leaks of private Astro information to the press. One of the leaks, to found the Astros apologizing to other MLB teams over confidential discussions placed on e-mail about potential trades. 

However, the criminal case did not end the fall-out from these events. Major League Baseball also conducted its own investigation and found that no other employees were implicated in the hacking. Under the MLB’s Commissioner’s findings, the Cardinals must pay the Astros $1.8 million within 30 days and will lose their first two draft picks for the 2017 season.  In addition, Mr. Correa was banned from the sport of baseball for life.

The purpose of the penalty was to emphasize the importance of fair competition.  According to the court documents, Mr. Correa was able to discern from the e-mails which players the Astros were thinking of recruiting and then able to use that information to move in and co-opt that recruit. In some cases, the information directed the Cardinals to potential players that they had not et scouted. If a team learns of a recruit because of public contact, that team can recruit away.  But, that team cannot use proprietary information as part of its recruiting efforts. 


Explain the distinction between the criminal case and what the MLB did.

The case against Mr. Correa was prosecuted in federal court.  Why?