Fireman in Kiddie-Porn Scandal Loses Challenge

     MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – A federal judge refused to suppress evidence against a former firefighter charged with sharing child pornography from his Duluth, Minn., firehouse.
     Minneapolis police zeroed in on Fire Station No. 7 when an undercover investigation of a peer-to-peer network last year revealed that an IP address associated with that location had been uploading computer files containing images of child porn.
     After investigators learned that there were just two firefighters on duty at the station on the dates that the files were shared, they obtained search warrants for the station and those firefighters’ residences.
     Before executing the warrant on the firehouse on Nov. 20, police addressed the firefighters as a group to explain the purpose of their visit.
     Police say Caleb Lofald, one of the two firefighters who surfaced as the possible culprit, came forward then and said he was the man they were looking for.
     After officers brought Lofald to his bunk for a conversation that they recorded, they told him he was not under arrest and did not have to speak to them.
     The parties apparently spoke only in general terms about file sharing with the recorder on, and the officers told Lofald that people like him who cooperate with police “end up doing just fine.”
     A sergeant told Lofald that, once everything is laid out on the table, he can get “help and treatment for this.”
     “You don’t have to talk to us,” the sergeant continued. “I’ve said that to you before. The thing is, we’re going to find out. If you, if you want to cooperate and tell us this is what I did, this is why I did, this is how I did, this is … you know? That’s great. And it looks good for the court.”
     The officers have testified that, about 16 minutes into the interview, Lofald asked the sergeant to turn the tape recorder off, and Lofald then admitted to downloading and storing child pornography at the station and his home.
     After learning that police were already planning to search his residence, Lofald took the investigators up on their offer of accompanying them in their execution of the search warrant.
     Lofald was never restrained in the process. He was arrested weeks later and indicted this past March with one court of production of child pornography, five counts of receipt of child pornography, and one count of possession of child pornography.
     U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery refused Monday to let the defendant suppress evidence obtained from the fire station and residence searches, as well as from his statements to police that day.
     Though police did not give Lofald a Miranda warning, he was not in custody and the warning was thus not required, the court found.
     Federal prosecutors have conceded that the warrant to search Lofald’s residence was not “supported by sufficient probable cause,” but they say that the inevitable-discovery doctrine is on their side.
     U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo Brisbois, who wrote the report and recommendation on Lofald’s motions, agreed that the evidence was valid because the government would have later obtained a valid warrant based on Lofald’s statements to investigators.
     Montgomery adopted the magistrate’s recommendation in a 13-page decision.
     “This information was volunteered by Lofald before he was told officers had already secured a warrant to search his residence, negating any suggestion that Lofald made the disclosure solely because he believed the contraband would have been discovered pursuant to a search he knew was imminent,” Montgomery wrote.
     Paul Engh is lead counsel for Lofald.

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