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COA: Man’s Facebook post that led to stolen iPad not a wiretap

April 18, 2018

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Wednesday declined to update the status of an Indianapolis man convicted of burglary who was caught with a stolen iPad after he incriminated himself with a Facebook post.

Daniel Sparks was sentenced to six years in prison with two years suspended after a jury convicted him of Level 4 felony burglary and Class A misdemeanor theft. Sparks stole an iPad, a Nike shoe collection and other personal items belonging to his former girlfriend, Lindsey Badanek, after she kicked him out of the home they had shared with their children.

Suspecting that Sparks had stolen her work-issued iPad and other items, Badanek logged into his Facebook account with a password Sparks had given her. She found a voice recording of Sparks angrily yelling at a woman about her “husband,” informing her that his use of the device would be noticed by the employer.

Badanek then called Indianapolis police and played the Facebook message as they made a video recording, which served as part of the basis of a search warrant where the iPad and other stolen items were found in Sparks’ possession. Before trial, Sparks attempted to suppress evidence from the search, and he argued to the Court of Appeals that the evidence was collected in violation of the federal Wiretap Act.

Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the unanimous panel that rejected Sparks’ wiretap argument on appeal in  Daniel Sparks v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1710-CR-2218.

“Federal courts have uniformly concluded that the Wiretap Act covers only ‘contemporaneous’ interceptions of wire, electronic, or oral communications, which are understood as the acquisition of communications in transit — rather than the acquisition of communications in storage,” Vaidik wrote. “Here, it is undisputed that Lindsey discovered on Sparks’s Facebook account a recording of a conversation that had already taken place. Finding no violation of the federal Wiretap Act or error in any of the other issues that Sparks raises, we affirm the trial court.

“(T)he search warrant was based on a practical, commonsense decision that there was a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime would be found in Sparks’s home,” Vaidik continued. “Because the warrant was supported by probable cause, the trial court did not err in admitting the iPad into evidence.”

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