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United States v. Billings

United States District Court, D. Maine

January 3, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JOHN BILLINGS, Defendant.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          NANCY TORRESEN, UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before me is Defendant John Billings's motion to suppress the statements he made during the execution of a search warrant of his home and the digital evidence recovered from two cell phones found during the search. (ECF No. 33.) Mr. Billings argues that the officers coerced him into providing the passcodes to the two cell phones, violating his Fifth Amendment rights, and that in “seizing” the passcodes they exceeded the scope of the warrant. The Government contends that the statements made by Mr. Billings were not coerced and that the police did not “seize” the passcodes. For the following reasons, the Defendant's motion is DENIED.

         FACTUAL FINDINGS

         On February 23, 2017, at approximately 10:30 a.m., law enforcement officers executed a search warrant for all computers, electronic devices, and digital storage media at 24 Maplewood Avenue, Windham, Maine. Det. Stepnick of the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit sought the warrant after downloading a video containing suspected child pornography that was shared on a peer-to-peer network from a computer with an IP address assigned to 24 Maplewood Avenue. Det. Stepnick was assisted in the search by seven to eight armed officers. Three or four were Homeland Security agents, who wore raid jackets. Det. Stepnick wore plain clothes with a badge, and his jacket concealed his firearm. The rest were uniformed Windham police department officers with visible firearms.

         When the officers arrived at the house, they first encountered Lori Presby, Mr. Billings's wife, and then presented her daughter, Lacy Lee, with a copy of the search warrant. Mr. Billings was sleeping upstairs, and officers woke him and escorted him down to the living room. Det. Stepnick told Mr. Billings they were executing a warrant because someone in the house “was seen downloading files that they shouldn't have been downloading.” Gov't's Ex. 1 (“Stepnick Recording”) 04:20-04:27.[1] Det. Stepnick started to ask Mr. Billings questions about his use of any file-sharing network. Mr. Billings said he would like to smoke a cigarette. Det. Stepnick asked that he smoke outside. As they were looking for cigarettes and a lighter, Det. Stepnick told Mr. Billings, “[n]obody's under arrest here either, you can leave at any time . . . .” Stepnick Recording 04:53-05:00. Det. Stepnick also told Mr. Billings that Ms. Lee had a copy of the search warrant. After additional conversation, the following exchange occurred:

Stepnick: Okay. Okay. We're doing an investigation, you're not under arrest or anything, but do you mind if we ask you some questions or talk about why we're here, or . . .
Billings: I'd like to have a lawyer.
Stepnick: Okay, okay, good enough. Um, then we won't talk to you anymore, then. Okay? Um, but we are going to take all the digital devices that are here, phones, computers, everything's going with us. Um, we were hoping to alleviate that, but we'll just take everything. And at some point you'll get it back. We're looking for child pornography.
Fife:[2] And there's a child living here.
Stepnick: And there's a child living here.
Fife: And that's a huge concern, you understand?
Stepnick: So do you have a phone on you, or is it in your room, or . . .
Billings: No.
Stepnick: Uh, no to what, you don't have it on you or it's in your room.
Billings: I have no phone.
Stepnick: Okay, okay. So we're gonna get Rescue for, is it your, the lady that's living here. Lori.[3]
Billings: Lori.
Stepnick: We're gonna get Rescue for her, she's having a little bit of, problems. And then we're going to rip the place apart and search it. And you can leave if you want, you can stay ...

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