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United States v. Coffin

United States District Court, D. Maine

February 2, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DERRICK A. COFFIN

          ORDER AFFIRMING RECOMMENDED DECISION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Court affirms a recommended decision to deny a motion to suppress evidence of the Defendant's possession of child pornography on his electronic media. The Court concludes that the Defendant, who was on state probation at the time of the search, had expressly consented to such searches as a condition of his probation, that law enforcement had a reasonable suspicion to search his computers, and that, contrary to Defendant's contention, there is no “one search rule” that prohibits law enforcement from repeated, random searches of a sex offender's computer equipment, even though prior searches did not reveal the presence of illicit material.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         On February 15, 2017, a federal grand jury indicted Derrick A. Coffin for three criminal law violations, each involving child pornography. Indictment (ECF No. 1). On April 26, 2017, Mr. Coffin filed a motion to suppress the results of a search of a Sony laptop, a Samsung cellphone, and an S.D. card removed from his house on March 18, 2016. Def.'s Mot. to Suppress Searches (ECF No. 28) (Def.'s Mot.). On May 17, 2017, the Government filed its opposition to the motion to suppress. Gov't's Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Suppress (ECF No. 33) (Gov't's Opp'n). On June 16, 2017, Mr. Coffin filed a reply. Def.'s Reply to Gov't's Resp. to Mot. to Suppress (ECF No. 41) (Def.'s Reply).

         On October 24, 2017, the Magistrate Judge held an evidentiary hearing on the motion to suppress. Tr. of Proceedings, Mot. Hr'g (ECF No. 66) (Tr.). On November 22, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a recommended decision, recommending that the Court deny the motion to suppress. Recommended Decision on Def.'s Mot. to Suppress (ECF No. 63) (Recommended Decision). On December 6, 2017, Mr. Coffin filed an objection to the recommended decision. Def.'s Obj. to Recommended Decision Denying Mot. to Suppress (ECF No. 64) (Def.'s Obj.). On December 20, 2017, the Government responded to the Defendant's objection to the recommended decision. Gov't's Resp. to Def.'s Obj. to Recommended Decision Denying Mot. to Suppress (ECF No. 65) (Gov't's Resp.). On January 8, 2018, a transcript of the evidentiary hearing was filed. Tr.

         B. Factual Summary

         1. Derrick Coffin's Conviction, Sentence and Probation

         On March 3, 2006, a Superior Court Justice for the state of Maine sentenced Derrick Coffin to fifteen years of incarceration with all but eight years suspended and ten years of probation for Gross Sexual Assault, a violation of 17-A M.R.S. § 253(1), a Class A crime; Burglary, a violation of 17-A M.R.S. § 401(1)(B)(4), a Class B crime; and Aggravated Criminal Trespass, a violation of 17-A M.R.S. § 402-A, a Class C crime. Gov't's Opp'n Attach. 1 (J. & Commitment). Mr. Coffin's underlying crime was the rape of a young boy. Tr. 68:7-11. On October 5, 2012, Mr. Coffin began his probationary term with the state of Maine. Id. 45:22-24; J. & Commitment Attach. 3 (Violation Review Form at 2). On December 9, 2014, Mr. Coffin consented to a modification of his conditions of probation to include:

Not view, listen to, or possess pornographic, sexually explicit, or provocative acts, performances, or materials in any form, and submit to random search of your person, residence, vehicles and all other spaces and materials, including electronic equipment and its storage and display mediums under your custody or control for evidence of such materials or activities.

Id. Attach. 4 (Mot. to Amend the Conditions of Probation).

         2. Amanda Fowler and Derrick Coffin: January to March 2015

         In January 2015, a woman named Amanda Fowler began to date Derrick Coffin. Tr. 16:19-24. She ended the relationship after about two months, roughly March 2015, when she found Mr. Coffin masturbating in his car while viewing child pornography. Id. 16:25-17:16. After Mr. Coffin had finished masturbating, Ms. Fowler saw him remove a thumb drive from his cellphone and place it in the console of the car. Id. 17:25-18:6. Ms. Fowler did not immediately report what she had witnessed to the authorities.

         3. May 2015 to July 2015: The First Search

         In May 2015, Mr. Coffin's Probation Officer (PO) was Dennis Haislet. Tr. On May 5, 2015, Mr. Coffin admitted to PO Haislet that he had viewed child pornography about six months after he had started on probation. Tr. 73:7-24; 74:11-20. However, Mr. Coffin said that he had destroyed the disc that contained the child pornography. Tr. 73:20-24; 75:2-11. Nevertheless, on May 5, 2015, Mr. Coffin told PO Haislet that he had masturbated to sexual fantasies involving minors. Tr. 69:3-5.

         Prompted by these revelations, PO Haislet initiated a probation search of Mr. Coffin's home in May 2015, including all of his computers. Tr. 75:21-76:15. The searching officers turned over Mr. Coffin's computer equipment to officers from the Maine State Crime Lab. Tr. 76:6-77:2. The searching officers did not, however, look for thumb drives or other removable media. Tr. 77:3-11. The Maine State Crime Lab officers performed on on-site check of Mr. Coffin's computer equipment and found child pornography on one of the computers.[1]Id. 77:15-18. The Maine State Crime Lab did not find any child pornography on Mr. Coffin's other home computer or on his cellphone. Tr. 78:7-82:2. Based on some questionable searches on his cellphone (for example, young ...


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