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United States v. Pippin

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

May 2, 2017



          John C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Curtis Pippin's motion to suppress (Dkt. No. 31). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion to suppress (Dkt. No. 31) for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case involves two warrants based on four tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Detective Francesca Nix of the Auburn Police Department was the officer who received these tips in or about July 2015. (Dkt. No. 31-1 at 12-16.)

         A. Tips A and B

         Tips A and B from the NCMEC stated that the email (XXXXX) [1] uploaded a total of four images suspected of being child pornography to the internet from internet protocol (IP) address (Id.) The IP address belonged to mobile carrier Sprint. (Id. at 12.) The uploads took place in Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona. (Id. at 12, 14.) Tip A reported that a secondary email used by the uploader was ___, however the tip did not allege that anything illicit was uploaded from that email. (Id. at 12.)

         Detective Nix reviewed the photos uploaded by (XXXXX) and concluded that they constituted child pornography. (Id. at 13-15.) She described the photos in detail and explained why they constituted child pornography in her affidavit for a search warrant. (Id.) Detective Nix did not state in her affidavit that she sent an administrative subpoena to (1) Google regarding I (XXXXX), (2) Microsoft Online Services regarding (XXXXX), or (3) Sprint regarding IP address In her application for a warrant, Detective Nix stated that she believed information regarding the identity of the suspect would be found in the account records of Google, Sprint, and Microsoft. (Id. at 16.)

         B. Tips C and D

         Detective Nix contacted the NCMEC "to determine if additional CyberTips had been received regarding these emails and IP address." (Id. at 16.) She received tips C and D in response to her request. (Id.) Detective Nix stated that "CyberTip report #5994961 [Tip C] was reported to NCMEC by Google stating that the email address of (XXXXX) secondary email address of (XXXXX) uploaded images depicting child pornography along with the images in Cyber Tip report #5994964 [Tip D]." (Id.) It appears that images were provided with the tips. However, Detective Nix did not provide copies or description of the images in her affidavit or give any indication that she had reviewed them herself and concluded they were child pornography. (See generally id.)

         Before applying for the first warrant, Detective Nix served Google, Yahoo, Sprint, and Comcast with administrative subpoenas. (Id. at 16-19.) From Google, she learned that the name on the account (XXXXX) was Curtis Pippin, with a phone number of (253) 202- 3490. (Id. at 17.) The email had a recovery address of (XXXXX). (Id.) The IP address recently used by the account-but not the one used to upload suspected child pornography-belonged to Comcast, (Id.) From Yahoo, Detective Nix learned that the name associated with (XXXXX) as Mr. Jay Patterson with a zip code of 98030. (Id.) The email had an "alternate communication channel" of (XXXXX). (Id.) The subpoena to Sprint for phone number (253) 202-3490 revealed that it was registered to Curtis Pippin and he lived in Kent, Washington. (Id. at 18.) Finally, the subpoena to Comcast revealed that the IP address related to Google login IP address was attached to a Mary Kramer with a service address of (XXXXX), Auburn, WA, 98002. (Id.) A law enforcement database search reported Curtis Pippin's current address in Kent, and his previous address of (XXXXX). Auburn, WA. (Id.)

         C. The First Affidavit and Warrant

         Detective Nix presented the above information in affidavit to King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas on March 30, 2016. (Dkt. No. 31-1.) The affidavit requested a warrant to search Google, Sprint, Microsoft Online Services, and Yahoo!, Inc. (Id. at 2-3.) The affidavit stated that there was probable cause to believe that ''Evidence of the crime(s) of: RCW 9.68A.070: Possession of Depictions of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct" or "Contraband, the fruits of a crime, or things otherwise criminally possessed" would be discovered at: (1) (XXXXX) at Google, (2) (XXXXX) at Microsoft Online Services, (3) (XXXXX) at Google, (4) (XXXXX) at Yahoo!, Inc., and (5) IP address at Sprint. The affidavit requested a broad range of digital information from each company. (Id.)

         Judge Darvas signed the warrant but limited what could be seized. (Id. at 26-27.) The Government was not permitted to search the contact list; deleted content; instant messenger/chats and logs; and groups message archives, files, photos, polls, calendar, and links. (Id. at 27.) Further, the Government could only search the content of the accounts, pictures (including metadata), videos, and emails for July 25, 2015 and the preceding 30 days. (Id. at 26.) Apparently, only Microsoft Online Services and Sprint responded to the wan-ant. (Id. at 41-42.) Microsoft reported that (XXXXX) was registered to Curtis Pippin in the state of California with a zip code of 95848. (Id. at 41.) Sprint responded that "Sprint PCS IP address[es] are dynamic and can be assigned to several people throughout any given day." (Id., at 42.) The fruit of the first warrant-that(XXXXX) was registered to Curtis Pippin-provides the only link between Tips A and B and Tips C and D.

         D. Additional Investigation

         Detective Nix also conducted additional investigation through Facebook, her regional law enforcement database, the National Crime Information Center, and the Washington State Crime Information Center. (Id. at 40.) Based on this investigation, Detective Nix discovered that (1) Jay Patterson had a Facebook profile associated with (XXXXX), (2) Curtis Pippin had a Facebook account that associated him with Auburn, Washington, (3) Curtis Pippin's phone number was (253) 202-3490 and his home address was (XXXXX) in Auburn, Washington, (4) he was convicted of Lewd and Lascivious Acts with a child under 14 in California in 2002, and (5) he was registered in King County as a level one sex offender. (Id. at 40-41.)

         E. The Second ...

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