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United States v. Morgan

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 27, 2015



CAROL E. JACKSON, District Judge.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), the Court referred all pretrial matters in this case to United States Magistrate Judge Thomas C. Mummert, III, for determination and recommended disposition, where appropriate. On March 3, 2015, Judge Mummert issued a Memorandum and a Report and Recommendation with respect to the motion filed by defendant Damien Morgan to suppress evidence and statements. The defendant filed timely objections to the magistrate judge's recommendation that his suppression motions be denied and the United States filed a response.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court must review de novo the findings and conclusions of the magistrate judge to which objections are made. Having done so, the Court concludes that the factual findings made by the magistrate judge are supported by the evidence and his legal conclusions are correct.

I. Discussion

A. Search Warrant for Electronic Media and Equipment

On October 18, 2013, St. Louis police officers obtained a warrant to search the computer and related electronic devices located at defendant's apartment for evidence relating to child pornography. In the affidavit in support of the search warrant application, Detective Michael Spreck recited in detail the undercover Internet investigation conducted on August 4, 2013, which led to the discovery of an Internet Protocol (IP) address for a computer involved in sharing images of child pornography. The affidavit further describes how the police determined that the IP address was assigned to the defendant on August 4 and that it was still active on October 3, 2013. Additionally, Det. Spreck described his training and experience in investigating computer crimes involving child pornography and wrote:

Affiant knows from training and experience that some people who collect child pornography tend to keep the images they get for extended periods of time and do not delete the images. They tend to regard the images as trophies and use them for sexual gratification. They also use them as bargaining tools when trading with others.

The search warrant was executed on October 23, 2013.

1. Timeliness

The defendant first objects to the magistrate judge's conclusion that the information in the affidavit established probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant. Specifically, defendant contends that the information pertaining to the child pornography investigation was "stale, " and, consequently, did not establish probable cause. Based on the nature of the crime being investigated and Det. Spreck's experience as set forth in the affidavit, there was a fair probability that child pornography could still be found on the defendant's computer two months after it was downloaded. See United States v. Smith, 266 F.3d 902, 904-05 (8th Cir. 2001) ("The timeliness of the information supplied in an affidavit depends on the circumstances of the case, including the nature of the crime under investigation."). See also Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983) (probable cause to search exists where there is "a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.").

2. Scope of warrant

The defendant next argues that the police exceeded the scope of the warrant by searching areas and seizing items not described in the warrant. The warrant authorized the police to search for electronic devices, electronic media, and related equipment and documents in which evidence of child pornography could be found. The items the police were authorized to look for were of a type that could be found in the areas they searched. See United States v. Romo-Corrales, 592 F.3d 915, 920 (8th Cir. 2010) (scope of search warrant not exceeded by search of all areas where items listed in the warrant might be found). The police did not exceed the scope of the warrant by searching the defendant's mailbox and safe. See United States v. Johnson, 709 F.2d 515, 516 (8th Cir. 1983) ("A search warrant authorizing the search of defined premises also authorizes the search of containers found on that premises which reasonably might conceal items listed in the warrant.").

Finally, the government represents to the Court that no web-based email accounts were accessed by the police and no evidence of emails sent to or from any webmail address will be offered at trial. Therefore, defendant's ...

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