Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF STODDARD COUNTY Honorable John C.
Jason Cato ("Defendant") appeals the judgment that
followed jury verdicts finding Defendant guilty of six counts
of possessing child pornography in 2011 and 2012.
See section 573.037. Defendant's sole point on
appeal claims the trial court erred in overruling his
"Second Motion to Suppress" and admitting at trial
evidence he claims was obtained as a result of "the
April 12, 2012 search warrant[.]" Defendant maintains
that such evidence should have been suppressed because the
affidavit supporting the search warrant "contained no
facts or circumstances giving rise to probable cause of a
the search was authorized under an earlier warrant not
challenged by Defendant, we affirm.
Law & Applicable Principles of Review
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
guarantees that no warrant shall issue except upon probable
cause supported by oath or affirmation. State v.
Neher, 213 S.W.3d 44, 48-49 (Mo. banc 2007). "In
determining whether probable cause exists, the issuing
magistrate or judge must 'make a practical, common-sense
decision whether, given all the circumstances set forth in
the affidavit before him [or her, ] ... there is a fair
probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be
found in a particular place.'" Id. at 49,
quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238, 103
S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527, (1983). "Accordingly, in
reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress
evidence seized pursuant to a search warrant, the court gives
great deference to the initial judicial determination of
probable cause that was made at the time the warrant
issued." Id., citing State v. Berry,
801 S.W.2d 64, 66 (Mo. banc 1990). An appellate court only
will reverse if the issuing magistrate or judge clearly erred
in initially determining, based on the totality of the
circumstances, that probable cause existed. Id.,
citing State v. Norman, 133 S.W.3d 151, 159
State v. Roggenbuck, 387 S.W.3d 376, 379-80 (Mo.
I, section 15 of the Missouri Constitution provides the same
guarantees against unreasonable search and seizures; thus,
the same analysis applies to cases under the Missouri
Constitution as under the United States Constitution."
State v. Oliver, 293 S.W.3d 437, 442 (Mo. banc
defer to the trial court on its "factual findings and
credibility determinations, " State v. Sund,
215 S.W.3d 719, 723 (Mo. banc 2007), and we consider
"all evidence and reasonable inferences in the light
most favorable to the trial court's ruling."
Id. In contrast, the legal issue of whether the
conduct at issued violated "the Fourth Amendment is an
issue of law that this Court reviews de novo."
Evidence and Procedural History
November 2011, Scott Phelps, a detective with the Poplar
Bluff Police Department, was using an investigative software
tool to "find IP addresses which have child pornography
available to download[.]" The software would also
"connect to those IP addresses and attempt to download
files or just get the file list." Detective Phelps
described an IP address as a unique number for a connection
to the internet, and he testified that it is possible to
trace an IP address to a physical location. The files at
issue were available via "Peer-to-Peer software"
that permits a file containing an image of child pornography
to be copied directly from one computer to another computer.
Detective Phelps knew from "the nationwide
registry" that a specific IP address identified in such
a manner ("the IP address") could be provided by a
particular communications company, and subpoenas were issued
to that company to obtain the identity of the subscriber who
used the IP address.
March 2012, the subpoenaed company identified Defendant as
the "account holder/subscriber" for the IP address.
Detective Phelps compared files that had been offered via
Peer-to-Peer from the IP address with files in a law
enforcement library of known images of child pornography, and
he determined that 15 files offered from the IP address
contained child pornography. Detective Phelps executed an
affidavit for a search warrant ("the Phelps
affidavit") that included, inter alia, specific
descriptions of the content of the images in the 15
identified files available from the IP address.
prosecutor then used the Phelps affidavit to apply for a
search warrant to be executed at Defendant's residence,
and a judge approved and issued the search warrant on April
4, 2012 ("the April 4th search
warrant"). We will refer to the April 4th
search warrant, the Phelps affidavit, and the
prosecutor's application, collectively, as "the
April 4th ...