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Jesse Featherly challenges the denial of his motion to quash the search warrant that led to the discovery of child pornography on his computer. Featherly was living in a trailer park in Wisconsin when an agent in Oklahoma discovered that Featherly’s Internet-service account was being used to share files containing child pornography.

An Agent applied for a warrant to search Featherly’s residence. In an affidavit filed in support of the warrant application, the Agent stated he was able to determine the IP address of this [user’s] computer at the time of the download and that this IP address was associated to Featherly’s internet service account.

A magistrate judge issued the warrant, concluding that the affidavit established probable cause for a search warrant to search the residence.  The warrant was executed and, based on the images found, Featherly was charged with receipt of child pornography, 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2), and possession of it, id. § 2252(a)(4).

Featherly then moved for a hearing under Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), seeking to quash the search warrant and suppress all evidence obtained during the search because the Agent had falsely stated in his affidavit that the IP address used by the suspect was traced to Featherly’s computer.  Under Franks, evidence seized under a warrant must be suppressed when the defendant shows that “(1) the affidavit in support of the warrant contains false statements or misleading omissions, (2) the false statements or omissions were made deliberately or with reckless disregard for the truth, and (3) probable cause would not have existed without the false statements and/or omissions.” United States v. Williams, 718 F.3d 644, 647 (7th Cir. 2013).

Featherly focuses on the first prong and maintains that the Agent’s affidavit falsely stated that an IP address belonged to the user’s computer. In Featherly’s view the IP address was assigned only to his modem, and the identity of the particular device using the modem at the time in question was unknown. This confusion, Featherly continues, kept the warrant-issuing judge from considering the possibility that someone else in the trailer park had connected to his modem wirelessly, without his knowledge, and used his Internet service to share child pornography.

We agree with the district judge that there was no intentional false statement in the affidavit. The statement that the IP address belonged to the user’s computer was not false. As the government points out, the Agent specified in his affidavit that he defined the term “computer” according to the statutory language of 18 U.S.C. § 1030(e)(1), which includes a “communications facility directly related to or operating in conjunction with” a computer. One such “communications facility” is Featherly’s modem since it’s a device that operates in conjunction with a computer to enable communication with others over the Internet.

We also agree with the district judge and the magistrate judge that the Agent’s statement about an IP address belonging to a particular computer was not significant to the finding of probable cause because probable cause was sufficiently established by the tracing of the IP address to Featherly’s modem. 

Probable cause requires only “facts sufficient to induce a reasonably prudent person to believe that a search . . . will uncover evidence of a crime,” United States v. Gregory, 795 F.3d 735, 741 (7th Cir. 2015) and the connection between an IP address and a modem at an Internet subscriber’s residence is sufficient to justify a search, see, e.g., United States v. Vosburgh, 602 F.3d 512, 526-27 (3d Cir. 2010)(agreeing with other circuits that “evidence that the user of a computer employing a particular IP address possessed or transmitted child pornography can support a search warrant for the physical premises linked to that IP address”).


US v. Jesse D. Featherly,  No. 15-3854.