WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge denied four applications for search-and-seizure warrants for four electronic devices allegedly connected to a child pornography web forum.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola denied the applications in four separate orders, ruling that prosecutors failed to address the court's concern in how electronic devices are searched.
According to the ruling, prosecutors successfully identified the objects to be searched - an Odys Loox Plus Tablet, a Fujifilm camera, an LG cellphone and a Sony laptop - and they successfully identified the items to be seized off the devices.
But the government's Attachment C on its application was "far from a paragon of clarity," the 10-page opinion states.
"Taken as a whole, Attachment C raises serious questions," Facciola wrote. "First, it appears that a computer forensic specialist will image and search the drives, but there is no explanation of what that person's relationship is with the team investigating the underlying crime and whether the investigating officers will be directly involved in the search. Second, although the government will return data that are not within the scope of Attachment B, it will return only copies and thus keep the originals (unless the entire device
contains no such relevant data)."
The judge added: "Furthermore, the reference to 'print[ing]' materials for evidence purposes seems bizarre given that the government will presumably make electronic copies of documents."
The court had also instructed prosecutors more than a week ago to clarify its method denied it six warrant applications for an iPhone 4S and other devices because prosecutors failed to explain what the basis of probable cause was to search the devices and how it would deal with intermingled documents, the ruling states.
"Since the government has not taken the hint, the court will be more explicit: the government needs to provide a sophisticated technical overview of how it plans to conduct the search," Facciola wrote.
The warrant applications were filed by prosecutors investigating a German national who was arrested in New York City for distribution and possession of child pornography.
According to the affidavit, the owner of the devices in question used them to operate a child pornography web forum.