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7th Circuit addresses digital media searches

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Despite being troubled by some aspects of a police officer's search of computers of a man charged with voyeurism - during which the officer discovered child pornography - the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found the search didn't exceed the scope of the original warrant.

In United States of America v. Matthew Eric Mann, No. 08-3041, Matthew Mann appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence of child pornography found on computers police searched to find evidence of voyeurism. Women in a locker room discovered a camera Mann had installed while working at the facility as a lifeguard. The police got a warrant to search Mann's computers to find images of women in locker rooms or other private areas. The police took a few computers and related items. 

Two months later, Lafayette Police Detective Paul Huff searched Mann's computers using software that would put the images into a viewable format and also alert police to Known File Filter files, which typically are previously identified child pornography images.

Huff found images from locker rooms and child pornography after searching the two computers. Two months later, he found four KFF alert files of child pornography on the external hard drive, and that many other flagged images were also of child pornography. Huff also found two videos from a high school locker room.

Mann tried to suppress the evidence because the officers exceeded the scope of the warrant. The District Court concluded with limited exceptions the search was within the scope of the warrant. Mann then entered a conditional guilty plea to possession of child pornography and reserved his right to appeal the denial of his challenge to suppress.

Mann wanted the Circuit judges to use United States v. Carey, 172 F.3d 1268 (10th Cir. 1999), to overturn the District Court's decision, but the 7th Circuit found Mann's case was similar to United States v. Wong, 334 F.3d 831 (9th Cir. 2003). Like the officer in Wong, Huff continued to look for voyeuristic images even after he discovered the child pornography.

The Circuit judges also decided the four KFF alert files were outside the scope of the search because Huff should have known once they were flagged, they would be child pornography. However, the other images Huff discovered should have been allowed because images indicating voyeurism could have been hidden anywhere in the computer and not easily recognizable, noted Judge Ilana Rovner.

The 7th Circuit also advised those involved in searches of digital media to exercise caution to ensure warrants describe "with particularity the things to be seized and that searches are narrowly tailored to uncover only those things described."

Although they allowed the images other than the 4 KFF alert files found by Huff to be admitted into evidence, "we emphasize that his failure to stop his search and request a separate warrant for child pornography is troubling," wrote Judge Rovner.

The appellate judges found it problematic that Huff waited two months before searching additional computer equipment but notwithstanding their "distaste for the timeline of the investigation,"  the original warrant authorized Huff's search of the external hard drive for voyeuristic images.

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  1. It is amazing how selectively courts can read cases and how two very similar factpatterns can result in quite different renderings. I cited this very same argument in Brown v. Bowman, lost. I guess it is panel, panel, panel when one is on appeal. Sad thing is, I had Sykes. Same argument, she went the opposite. Her Rooker-Feldman jurisprudence is now decidedly unintelligible.

  2. November, 2014, I was charged with OWI/Endangering a person. I was not given a Breathalyzer test and the arresting officer did not believe that alcohol was in any way involved. I was self-overmedicated with prescription medications. I was taken to local hospital for blood draw to be sent to State Tox Lab. My attorney gave me a cookie-cutter plea which amounts to an ALCOHOL-related charge. Totally unacceptable!! HOW can I get my TOX report from the state lab???

  3. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

  4. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  5. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

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