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United States v. Needham

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

July 8, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
James Patrick Needham, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

LEO I. BRISBOIS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter came before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge upon Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained as a Result of Search and Seizure, [Docket No. 21], regarding the search of, and evidence seized from, Defendant's residence.[1] The case has been referred to the Magistrate Judge for report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 72.1. The Court held a hearing on June 19, 2013, regarding the suppression motion and both parties' discovery motions.[2] For reasons outlined below, the Court recommends the motion be DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

James Patrick Needham (Defendant) is charged with one count of possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252(a)(4)(B) and 2252(b)(2), and one count of distribution of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252(a)(2) and 2252(b)(1). (Indictment [Docket No. 1]). Federal law enforcement officers searched Defendant's residence in Red Lake, Minnesota, on July 14, 2011. (See Part II, infra). Defendant was indicted on May 6, 2013, and subsequently, he brought this motion on May 21, 2013.

II. FACTS[3]

Special Agent Joe A. Ogden (SA Ogden) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) swore out the affidavit for the search warrant application, based on his own investigation and on information provided by other law enforcement agents. (Gov't's Ex. 1, Aff. Ogden, at 1, ¶ 4). On July 14, 2011, the SA Ogden sought a warrant authorizing (1) the search of a home located in Red Lake, Minnesota ("the residence" or "Defendant's residence"), and (2) the seizure of evidence related to the receipt, possession, reproduction, and distribution of child pornography. (Id. at 1-2, ¶¶ 2-6).

In or around August 2010, the FBI began to investigate the possible distribution of child pornography on the social networking platform GROU.PS. (Id. at 9, ¶ 11; at 10, ¶ 12). The FBI identified twelve (12) groups on GROU.PS that contained images and/or videos believed to be child pornography, and on September 17, 2010, the FBI obtained and executed federal search warrants[4] on GROU.PS seeking information related to those twelve (12) groups and their members. (Id. at 11, ¶¶ 13-14). GROU.PS provided information about each of the users of the twelve (12) targeted groups, including each member's email address, the date of the member's subscription, and the names of each group the member was a member of. (Id. at 12, ¶15). GROU.PS also provided, for each image or video uploaded to the targeted groups, the IP address from which the image or video was uploaded, the date and time of the upload, and access to the image or video. (Id.).

One of the groups being investigated was called http://grou.ps/boy2kid (boy2kid). (Id. at 11, ¶¶ 13-14). Upon reviewing the data provided by GROU.PS, investigators identified eleven (11) images of alleged child pornography posted to boy2kid on August 4, 2010, by a member using the username "Rezchub61." (Id. at 12-13, ¶ 17).[5] Investigators identified the Internet Protocol address (IP address)[6] associated with the uploads and determined that it was assigned to Paul Bunyan Communications. (Id. at 13, ¶ 18). However, Paul Bunyan Communications, in response to an administrative subpoena, stated that the IP address associated with the uploads was shared by multiple customers. (Id.). Investigators then undertook to compare the IP address used to upload the images to IP addresses utilized by SoftLayer, which hosted the GROU.PS websites, and by AmazonA WS, which hosted content uploaded to the GROU.PS websites. (Id. at 13, ¶¶ 18-20).

By such comparison, investigators were able to determine that, on the date and during the times that the images at issue were uploaded by "rezchub61, " Defendant was the only Paul Bunyan Communications customer connected to the IP addresses being investigated. (Id. at 13, ¶ 20). Paul Bunyan Communications reported that the last name of the member using "rezchub61" was Needham, and provided a mailing address in Red Lake, Minnesota, zip code 56671, for a customer named "James D. Needham." (Id. at 13-14, ¶¶ 20-21). GROU.PS identified "rezchub61" as using the email account rezchub61@yahoo.com. (Id. at 14, ¶ 21). In response to administrative subpoenas, Yahoo! provided information that the rezchub61@yahoo.com email address belonged to an account holder who identified himself as "Mr. Rick Needham, " in zip code 56671, and that the account holder listed an alternate email address of redchub61@yahoo.com, which belonged to an account holder who identified himself as "Mr. James Needham, " in zip code 56671. (Id. at 14-15, ¶ 23).

The information provided by Paul Bunyan Communications did not include a specific physical address for the customer named James Needham, but provided that he lived on the Red Lake Indian Reservation on a road known both as "Back of Town Road" and "Crossroads Avenue." (Id. at 15, ¶ 24). SA Ogden then reached out to Red Lake Director of Tribal Engineering Dean Branchaud, who stated that a James Needham lived in a modular home a road known both as "Back of Town Road" and "Crossroads Avenue." (Id. at 15, ¶ 26). Red Lake Criminal Investigator Jason Richards contacted Defendant at his residence on Crossroads Avenue, which Defendant identified as "Back of Town Road." (Id. at 15, ¶ 25).[7]

SA Ogden's affidavit provided a physical description of Defendant's residence, and of its location, and an attachment included a photograph of the residence. (Id. at 15, ¶¶ 24-27; at Attachment A).

In his affidavit, SA Ogden describes, based on his training and experience, some of the common characteristics of child pornography collectors. (Id. at 8-9, ¶ 10). Among those characteristics, according to SA Ogden: "The majority of individuals who collect child pornography rarely, if ever, dispose of their sexually explicit materials and may go to great lengths to conceal and protect their collection of illicit materials from discovery, theft, and damage." (Id. at 9, ¶ 10.f).

SA Ogden swore out his affidavit before Hon. Mary Kay Klein, U.S. Magistrate Judge, on July 14, 2011. (Id. at 16). Attachments included a photograph of Defendant's residence and specified items to be seized, including computers and computer-related equipment. (Id. at Attachments A-B). Judge Klein signed the search warrant on July 14, 2011, authorizing such search and seizure on or ...


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