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United States v. Huntoon

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 23, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff,



         Before the Court is Defendant Michael Huntoon's (Huntoon) motions to suppress evidence (Docs. 66, 89, and 97) on referral by order of the Honorable David C. Bury, United States District Judge, pursuant to LRCrim 5.1 (Doc. 96). The government responded to Huntoon's motions (Docs. 79, 100, and 102). These matters came before Magistrate Judge Ferraro for hearing on March 15 and 20, 2018. (Docs. 108 and 114.) Neither the government nor Huntoon offered live testimony. Instead, both parties submitted exhibits for the Court to consider. As explained below, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the District Court, after its independent review, deny the motions (Docs. 66, 89, and 97).


         The relevant facts are not in dispute. This case involves child pornography distribution using peer to peer file sharing (P2P) software over the Internet. P2P file sharing is a method of communication available to Internet users through publically available software. Computers linked together through the Internet using this software form a network. The P2P network enables its users to share designated files from their computer with anyone using compatible P2P software on the Internet worldwide.

         Here, Huntoon was investigated by three different law enforcement agencies for sharing child pornography over the Internet via a P2P network; two municipal police departments within the State of Arizona and the Department of Homeland Security. All three investigations began after law enforcement officers, who at different times, discovered that child pornography was being shared on a P2P network believed to originate from Huntoon's computer. While State officers quickly discovered each other's investigation, the federal agents were unaware of the State investigations until a federal search warrant was executed at Huntoon's last known address. During the execution of this warrant, Huntoon's father told the federal agents his son was in State custody on State child pornography charges. The federal agents then discovered that Huntoon had been arrested after police found child pornography on his laptop that was seized pursuant to a State search warrant.

         The federal search resulted in the seizure of numerous items including a USB flash drive and a Lenovo computer tower.[1] Huntoon is charged in a two count indictment with distribution of child pornography and knowingly accessing child pornography. (Doc. 1.) The indictment is based on the child pornography found on the USB flash drive (Count Two) and the child pornography that federal agents discovered was being shared by Huntoon over the Internet (Count One).

         Nearly two years after the execution of the State search warrant and on the eve of the federal trial, State officers provided a mirror image of Huntoon's laptop to federal agents. Without first obtaining a search warrant, federal agents examined the laptop for the purpose of providing trial testimony concerning the child pornography charged in the federal indictment. The warrantless search indeed revealed that many of the images found during the examination appeared to be the images shared by Huntoon on the P2P network alleged in Count One.


         Huntoon moves to suppress all evidence found on the laptop seized in the State search. Huntoon asserts this search warrant lacked probable cause and was supported by knowingly false information. Huntoon also argues the recent examination of the mirror image of his laptop by federal agents is presumptively unreasonable because they did not get a search warrant.

         In the affidavit supporting the State search warrant, the affiant, Detective Frank Angel (Angel), Phoenix Police Department, describes P2P networks, file sharing and other technical aspects of his investigation. He then describes how he began his investigation using a law enforcement version of P2P software to obtain images of child pornography being publicly shared by the defendant over a P2P network. The affidavit describes the names and titles of the images he viewed and provided a description, which clearly showed the images and videos depicted the sexual exploitation of minors.

         During Det. Angel's preliminary investigation of IP address associated with the child pornography, he discovered Detective William McDonald, Chandler Police Department, was also investigating the same IP address. According to the affidavit, Det. McDonald had obtained many of the same images Det. Angel had. Det. Angel took over the investigation because he was a member of the AZICAC[2] Task Force, which included the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, where the IP address was believed to be located.

         According to the affidavit, Det. Angel learned that Huntoon, a registered sex offender, was living in a 5th wheel recreational vehicle next to a home at 1404 S. Smythe Drive, Apache Junction, Arizona. He also learned Huntoon had access to the Internet from that address. On October 27, 2015, Det. Angel obtained a state search warrant for the premises at 1404 S. Smythe Drive and the 5th wheel recreational vehicle parked on the property. The search warrant was executed on October 29, 2015, and items of evidentiary value were seized, including the laptop computer that is the subject of Defendant's motion to suppress.

         Huntoon moves for an evidentiary hearing pursuant to Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), arguing Det. Angel, the affiant, made a knowingly false statement concerning how Huntoon acquired Internet access. Here, the affidavit describes how Det. Angel learned that Huntoon had access to the IP address located at 1404 S. Smythe Drive, as follows:

Detective Southwick went to 1404 S. Smythe Drive and verified that Cheryl Friederich along with two minor children under CPS care reside at 1404 S. Smythe Drive. Cheryl Friederich told Detective Southwick that her mailing address is 1404 S. Cedar Drive but she and the two children reside in 1404 S. Smythe Dr. She further told Detective Southwick that Michael Huntoon and his wife Courtney reside in the 5th wheel RV parked on the property at 1404 S. Smythe Drive. Cheryl told Detective Southwick that she gets her internet in the home and that Michael Huntoon uses an Ethernet cable and runs it from the 5th wheel RV into her home and into the router. This cable connects Michael's laptop to the internet. Detective Southwick also met with Michael Huntoon and Michael stated that he and his wife reside in the 5th wheel at 1404 S. Smythe and he accesses the internet from the Ethernet cable from ...

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