Court refuses to toss out evidence in child porn conviction

AP News
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Posted: Nov 04, 2015 4:49 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court refused Wednesday to toss out evidence of child pornography used to convict a Washington state man, though it found the evidence was obtained through illegal government surveillance.

The surveillance by a U.S. Navy investigator that led to Michael Dreyer's conviction violated a prohibition on the use of the military in civilian law enforcement activities, an 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said. But the military was taking steps to ensure the violation didn't occur again, so suppressing the evidence was not needed, the panel held.

"The military is best suited to correct this systemic violation, and it has initiated steps to do so," Judge Morgan Christen wrote. "Therefore, on this record and at this juncture, we conclude that the facts of this case do not demonstrate 'a need to deter future violations' by suppressing the results."

The ruling rejected a smaller 9th Circuit panel's determination that the evidence should be suppressed.

A call to Dreyer's attorney was not immediately returned.

Dreyer was arrested in 2011 after local police alerted by the Navy found child pornography on his computer. Special agent Steve Logan had been asked by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Washington to investigate computers in the state sharing child pornography and used software to search a file-sharing network. The software led to an Internet Protocol address linked to Dreyer, and an NCIS agent passed that information to the Algona police department, which searched Dreyer's computer, according to the 9th Circuit.

A U.S. Homeland Security agent also searched the computer.

The 9th Circuit's ruling on Wednesday said Logan may not have violated the law if he had restricted his search to members of the military, but his search had no such limitation.