Kiddie Porn Found After Suicide Supports Charges

     MILWAUKEE (CN) – Though it’s unclear why police kept his computer for 10 months, the civil rights of a man serving 100 years for child pornography were not violated, a Wisconsin appeals court ruled.
     David Gant’s unsuccessful appeal challenged Milwaukee police officers’ seizure of computers from his home during the investigation of his wife’s suicide in September 2010. The computers had “hundreds of files of child pornography,” found during execution of a search warrant 10 months later, according to court records.
     Gant called the police to report he had found his wife, Crystal, “hanging by the neck from a cable suspended from a beam in their basement,” the ruling states. The Oct. 9 opinion was written by District I Wisconsin Court of Appeals Justice Rebecca Bradley, who was recently appointed to complete the term of the recently-deceased Justice N. Patrick Crooks on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
     When police arrived, Gant had cut his wife down and placed her body on a bed in the basement.
     “[P]olice procedure is to handle an apparent suicide as a homicide,” Bradley wrote. “They do this by separating and interviewing witnesses, photographing the scene, and collecting evidence.”
     Gant’s daughter said her mother had been using the computer before her death, and officers typically search computers for suicide notes or evidence of homicide regardless of witness accounts, the ruling states. Gant gave police permission to seize his property, but not to search the computers.
     According to the concurring opinion, written by Justice Joan Kessler, Gant did not make “a reasonable effort” to get his computers back during the 10 months they were in police possession, only stopping into the police station a week or two after his wife’s death was ruled a suicide.
     During that time, Gant’s brother Jason reported that Gant had admitted to molesting his own children and had child pornography on his computers. Gant’s mother-in-law also reported finding 17 DVDs of child pornography in Gant’s home while she cleaned it.
     After Gant was charged with exposing his genitals to a minor in October 2010 and sexual assault of a child in July 2011, police executed a search warrant of his computers, where they found a collection of child porn, court records show. Gant pleaded guilty to 10 counts of child pornography and was sentenced to 100 years confinement.
     Gant’s argument that the police did not have probable cause to seize and search the computers while investigating his wife’s suicide falls flat, as such a seizure is common in suicide cases and supported by his daughter’s account of Crystal using the computer before she died, the appeals court ruled.
     Gant also claimed that police had no reason to keep his computers after his wife’s death was ruled a suicide. The appeals court assumed without deciding that keeping the computers for 10 months was unlawful – however, the police would have sought a search warrant based on other factors regardless of who possessed the computers at the time of the later charges, Bradley wrote.
     “There is no evidence that the police held on to Gant’s computers hoping independent evidence of child pornography would be located, and the computers were not originally seized or held because Gant was suspected of child pornography,” the judge wrote. “The investigation into child pornography was completely independent of the initial seizure and the retention.”
     Bradley added that there is no evidence of “flagrant police misconduct” in retaining the computers.
     “The police did not illegally search Gant’s computers. Instead, the computers sat in police inventory until [Gant’s brother] told police there was child pornography on Gant’s computer and [Gant’s mother-in-law] found DVD computer discs with child pornography. This information led to the realization that Gant’s computers were still in police custody,” she wrote.
     Hannah Jurss, Gant’s appellate lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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