A 76-year old man took his computer into CompUSA for repair. Technicians discovered folders and subfolders with suspected child pornography. The technicians called the police. The police requested the technician show them the thumbnail images they observed. The images depicted obvious sexual activity between adults and children. The police obtained search warrants for the residence, office and two vehicles. After his arrest, his estranged wife called the police and told them the man had a home office at their shared residence and she had found items on it which she believed to contain child pornography. With her consent, the police secured the computer, some DVDs, and other items from this home office.

The defendant filed motions to suppress the warrantless search of his computer at CompUSA. The court denied the motion. He had voluntarily turned over his computer for repair. The Appellate Court ruled, “(t)he Fourth Amendment proscriptions on searches and seizures are inapplicable to private action…the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit governmental use of the now non-private information.” The defense further argued that the detectives needed a warrant to ask the technician to enlarge the thumbnail images. The court said this was irrelevant since the technician had viewed these images already and any expectation of privacy was extinguished. The defense further argued the estranged wife had neither actual nor apparent authority to consent to a search of the defendant’s office in their home. The facts were that the estranged wife had common authority over the house, including the home office. She could consent and allow the police to search.

The federal court sentenced the defendant to 8 years (96 months) in federal custody. He suffered from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, thyroid disease, and kidney disease. He was taking approximately 22 medications daily. The court rejected the defendant’s request to a lifetime of supervised release, home confinement, and community service. He also requested to pay $100,000 in restitution.

This man had turned to viewing pornography for his sexual stimulation. In the course of it, he viewed a lot of child pornography. See our blog on how a lapse of judgment can cause some serious consequences. Lessons to be learned:

1. Do not view any child pornography–no matter how curious you are or fake you think it is. Dire consequences will follow.
2. Even if you delete something you have viewed, it is still on your hard drive in a folder
or subfolder. The police, computer technician, and other tech savvy person can bring up anything still stored on your hard drive.
3. Do not possess anything illegal. If you think there is something illegal on your computer, get a new hard drive or a new computer. Make sure you don’t put something illegal on it in the future.
4. If you have viewed suspected child pornography, do not take your computer into a repair store. Technicians will report you to the police if they see suspected child pornography.

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