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United States v. Hood

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 3, 2019

RUSTY HOOD, Defendant, Appellant.


          J. Hilary Billings, Assistant Federal Defender, for appellant.

          Benjamin M. Block, Assistant U.S. Attorney, with whom Halsey B. Frank, United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.

          Before Barron, Circuit Judge, Souter, [*] Associate Justice, and Selya, Circuit Judge.


         Rusty Hood ("Hood") entered a conditional guilty plea in the District of Maine to transporting child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(1). He now challenges his conviction and a condition of his supervised release. We affirm.


         On January 5, 2017, the Portland, Maine office of Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI") of the United States Department of Homeland Security received a call from the Cleveland, Ohio HSI office regarding an investigation into the transmission of child pornography via the smartphone messaging application Kik. According to the information gathered by the Cleveland office, an individual bearing the Kik username "rustyhood" had communicated with a Cleveland resident, Brian Keeling, regarding the exchange of child pornography and the sexual abuse of young children. The "rustyhood" Kik profile photograph was of a man holding a baby and wearing a sticker that indicated that he was a visitor at the Maine Medical Center.

         The conversation log between the two men showed that, on May 16, 2016, "rustyhood" either sent or received what amounted to thirteen pornographic images of young children and bragged explicitly about his past sexual abuse of a neighbor's young daughter. The investigation also revealed that between May 15, 2016 and July 4, 2016, "rustyhood" had posted a total of six pornographic images of children to a larger group chat as well as two links to files containing a total of fifty-eight photographs and eighteen videos of child pornography.

         In response to this information, Portland HSI Agent David Fife ("Fife") issued an Emergency Disclosure Request ("EDR") -- a procedure authorized by the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2702 -- to Kik requesting subscriber information and recent IP addresses associated with the "rustyhood" account. Kik responded that same day and provided Fife the date that the account was registered, the email address used to register the account, and the make and model of the device most recently used to access the account. Additionally, Kik provided Fife the most recent IP logs associated with the account, which indicated that someone had accessed the account from three separate IP addresses between December 7 and December 11 of 2016.

         Based on the information acquired from Kik, Fife was able to determine independently that the three IP addresses belonged to the digital communications providers Metrocast Cable ("Metrocast") and Fairpoint Communications ("Fairpoint"). Utilizing an administrative summons procedure authorized by 18 U.S.C. § 2703, Fife requested from both companies the location information associated with those IP addresses. Metrocast and Fairpoint responded with information indicating that one of the IP addresses was assigned to the Oakwood Inn in Sanford, Maine, while the other two addresses were linked to a residence there.

         Through additional independent database searches that Fife undertook, he determined that there was only one individual in Maine with the name "Rusty Hood." This information led Fife to Hood's Facebook profile. The profile displayed an image that matched the image of the photograph attached to the "rustyhood" Kik account, included a link directing users to "chat with [him] on Kik" using the "rustyhood" username, and indicated that Hood lived in Sanford, Maine. Further investigation revealed that the Sanford Police Department had recently arrested a "Rusty Hood" and that his booking photograph matched the man depicted in both the Facebook and Kik profiles. Sanford Police also provided information indicating that Hood had been a guest in the Oakwood Inn at the same time the hotel's IP address was used to access Hood's Kik account.

         Based on this information, on January 19, 2017, the government filed a criminal complaint that charged Hood with transporting child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(1) and arrested Hood the next day. Hood was then indicted on March 1, 2017, for violations of both 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(1) (transporting child pornography) and 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(2) (receiving child pornography).

         After his arrest, Hood filed a motion to suppress the evidence gathered from Kik, Metrocast, and Fairpoint pursuant to the EDR and the administrative summonses "as well as all evidence secured directly or indirectly as fruit of the evidence secured from the named entities." The motion did so on the ground that the government had violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution by acquiring the information at issue from these companies without a warrant. In response, the government invoked what is known as the third-party doctrine to argue that it was not required to obtain a warrant. The government explained that the third-party doctrine controlled here because the information that had been acquired from Kik, Metrocast, and Fairpoint, respectively, had been voluntarily disclosed ...

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