Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

Teen's Computer Seized Without Search Warrant

By ScottBrady in MLP
Mon May 21, 2001 at 12:41:42 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

Police officers in Manlius, New York, seized the computer of a 15 year old student after a threatening email was sent to 13 fellow students of Christian Brothers Academy. While evidence suggests that the student in question may have sent the email, it has been revealed that a search warrant was not issued until after the search was conducted and that the warrant was unlawfully approved by the Town Justice of DeWitt, New York.

Let me start off by saying that, while the exact contents of the "threatening" email are unknown, if this is a genuine case of written intimidation I think the person who sent the email should be punished. How severe that punishment is should be determined by factors such as the nature of the threat, the age of the perpetrator, among other things.

Even with that said, the fact remains that no matter how extreme the threat may have been due process must be granted to the accused party. I am amazed that an occurrence like this can happen. How many times do we read about rights being violated? How many times do we read about guilty men and woman walking free because of mishandling in the collection of evidence.

What troubles me the most is what appears to be the poor attempt at covering up their mistake. Obtaining the search warrant after the search. Obtaining it from a Town Justice that doesn't have jurisdiction. At least in this case a Family Court judge corrected the injustice.

I can sleep tonight knowing that much, can't I?


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


This story is:
o Frightening 23%
o Too commonly heard 43%
o Overblown 13%
o MLP Wankathon 19%

Votes: 92
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o seized the computer of a 15 year old student
o Christian Brothers Academy
o Also by ScottBrady

Display: Sort:
Teen's Computer Seized Without Search Warrant | 31 comments (30 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
should have known better (2.80 / 30) (#1)
by Seumas on Sat May 19, 2001 at 03:16:10 PM EST

Being from a Christian Acadamy, he should have understood that it's only acceptable to threaten and intimidate if it is in the name of God. Perhaps he should have thrown a bible quote in (if the allegation was even true) and suggested they'll be damned to hell for their sinful ways.

I hope that the kids parents step up to the plate for him and don't just roll over on the warrant issue. I'd also like to know how the police made it into their house, if they didn't have a warrant. Did the parents just open the door and invite them in?!
I just read K5 for the articles.

They can search without a warrant (4.33 / 6) (#3)
by John Milton on Sat May 19, 2001 at 04:12:11 PM EST

Simply having a warrant makes the evidence admissable in court. You still don't have to accept a warrant. If your presented with one that you think is fake or not proper, you can refuse to consent. That won't stop them from searching your house. You do have the right to say "I don't consent to this search warrant, and I question it's validity."

In this case, although no search warrant was given, that wouldn't give the searchee the right to pull out their gun and defend their property. Try that and see what happens. An officer of the law is assumed to be acting in good faith. Afterwards, you can complain. While it's going on, you better just grin and bear it. Just wait until you get to court and question the warrant or lack thereof.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
right (3.38 / 13) (#7)
by Seumas on Sat May 19, 2001 at 09:57:39 PM EST

That's what I was asking. Did the police make their way in without any objection by the parents? Without objection by the kid? Were they given any explanation at the time or did they just do an FBI-type barge-in and grab everything and run without so much as a nod to the rest, etc?

I'm pretty sure you would have a hard time justifying a warrantless entry and search for something so minimal in nature. If they suspect someone being tortured and raped in the house, that's one thing. But what, other than a nights sleep, were they going to lose by getting a warrant and accessing the computer a day later?
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

Christian Brothers. (3.00 / 2) (#16)
by Alarmist on Mon May 21, 2001 at 09:58:36 AM EST

Being from a Christian Acadamy, he should have understood that it's only acceptable to threaten and intimidate if it is in the name of God. Perhaps he should have thrown a bible quote in (if the allegation was even true) and suggested they'll be damned to hell for their sinful ways.

What you're talking about is more in line with Free-Will Baptistry than it is with Roman Catholicism. Christian Brothers schools are Catholic, not Protestant.

Think before you stereotype, okay? I went to a CB high school and we didn't have that sort of thinking pushed on us by anyone at any time.

[ Parent ]

Defense (3.53 / 15) (#2)
by br284 on Sat May 19, 2001 at 03:38:42 PM EST

I would think that any defense attorney would be able to have this thrown out real quick. Anyone have any evidence of this happening elsewhere and the defense being unable to get it thrown out? Seems like a very basic rule.


Reading the article: been tried (3.25 / 4) (#5)
by kmself on Sat May 19, 2001 at 06:09:40 PM EST

The article reports that the defense has tried to have the case tossed and the court has refused, though the email appears to be the primary evidence.

Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

The exclusionary rule (4.00 / 4) (#8)
by gbroiles on Sat May 19, 2001 at 10:38:45 PM EST

The article says clearly that the evidence which was found as a result of the improper search was excluded. In other words, it was "thrown out".

The prosecution still gets to introduce other evidence which was not gained illegally (e.g., copies of the emails, and their headers, which came from "victim's" computers, which were turned over voluntarily), and if they can get a conviction on that basis, so be it.

The remedy for an illegal search or seizure isn't dismissal of the case, just exclusion of the evidence gained illegally.

[ Parent ]
Pah (4.00 / 2) (#11)
by NightRain on Sun May 20, 2001 at 12:51:47 PM EST

That's not a solution. The fact is that it is evidence, and denying any evidence at all in a trial is a making a parody of it being fair and just process. It instead becomes a game of technicalities and who can find the most. Wait, that's how the system alreay works. </cynical attitude>

The solution is to punish the people who gained the evidence illegally, and then use the evidence anyway. The fact is that whatever it's source, it is another step in allowing people to determine the truth of the matter, which is what the whole case is about isn't it?

[ Parent ]

And then (4.66 / 3) (#15)
by hulver on Mon May 21, 2001 at 06:51:40 AM EST

the police just start searching everybody, without a warrent. Eventually they'll find somebody who has commited a crime, and the world will be a safer place.

[ Parent ]
Pah again. (4.50 / 2) (#20)
by NightRain on Mon May 21, 2001 at 11:10:55 AM EST

the police just start searching everybody, without a warrent.

Don't give me that. I said that the people who went in without a warrant should be punished. They did wrong and should be called to task for it. But ignoring the real evidence they gathered is ridiculous. Ignoring the potential good that may come from their bad move is silly. If the guy was at fault, and this evidence helps convict him, how can you in all seriousness tell me you'd rather have them not brought to task on the issue?

Don't vote, it only encourages them!

[ Parent ]
what sort of punishment? (4.00 / 2) (#22)
by guinsu on Mon May 21, 2001 at 01:00:22 PM EST

The only problem is that you need to make the punishment strong enough to outweigh the benefit of breaking the rules and gathering the evidence anyway. If a cop is going to get a slap on the wrist for violating the constitutional rights of a suspected drug dealer or pedophile I'd be willing to bet the cop would break the rules almost every time.

[ Parent ]
Sounds fine to me (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by NightRain on Mon May 21, 2001 at 04:00:04 PM EST

Good, I'm not talking about the severity of the rules. Make them as severe as they need to be to ensure that doesn't happen. But if it did happen, letting the peadophile get away with it because the conclusive evidence was gained incorrectly is just stupid.

Fire the cop in question and ensure that he doesn't get his superannuation or pension or whatever. Fine him, whatever it takes, but don't let one wrong create another.

Don't vote, it only encourages them!

[ Parent ]
whatever .. (3.50 / 2) (#27)
by gbroiles on Mon May 21, 2001 at 11:46:42 PM EST

It's not meant as a "solution", but as a description of how things function, today, like it or not.

Your "solution" is likely to lead to either the same result as the exclusionary rule (because cops who gain evidence illegally won't reveal it, and hence subject themselves to punishment, so the evidence will stay secret/hidden) or to no punishment, because the cops will themselves skate through on a technicality ("well, they *meant* to get the evidence the right way, so no punishment this time, and we'll go ahead and admit the evidence ..") and the 4th Amendment will become effectively meaningless.

But all of this arguing is neither here nor there - the Supreme Court has ruled that the exclusionary rule is implied by the constitution itself. If you want to change it, you'll have to change the constitution, or change the Supreme Court. Better pack a lunch.

[ Parent ]
Re: whatever .. (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by NightRain on Tue May 22, 2001 at 09:07:11 AM EST

Your "solution" is likely to lead to either the same result as the exclusionary rule

I doubt it. I mean the fact is that the evidence they gathered in the article itself is completely and utterly useless didn't stop the cops doing it did it? There will always be the odd exception where the cops do something they shouldn't. The method I suggest, and the current way it works both mean that these instances will always be the 'odd exception' and not the unwritten rule, but at least my way the hypothetical cops mistake doesn't give the hypothetical criminal a break.

But all of this arguing is neither here nor there

I'm fully aware that all of this discussion is for nothing. The constitution is completely irrelevant to my point, as I'm not talking about America, but rather 'The Western World' if you will. In no case will my arguments change the way the world works, but it doesn't stop me saying when I think things aren't working the way they are. The whole point is that I think it's ridiculous that people can walk on technicalities when there is proof that they did wrong that for one reason or another is ignored. I don't care if it's the cop or the criminal.

Don't vote, it only encourages them!

[ Parent ]
More Info (4.27 / 11) (#4)
by natael on Sat May 19, 2001 at 06:08:40 PM EST

I'd like to know more about the situation. Since the student was a minor living in his parents home, a search warrant would not be required if the parents gave their consent. This would hold true even if the computer was the students own, purchased by himself, because it was located in his parents house.

I can't remember the name of the case that set this precedent in the U.S., but I can try to find it if people have any questions.

I'm not saying this applies in this case. We need to know if the parents allowed the search knowing that the state had not obtained a search warrant.

Bigger Problems (3.50 / 10) (#6)
by CheSera on Sat May 19, 2001 at 06:13:17 PM EST

Ok, so a small town cut a corner and was over-zealous in the arrest. Certainly unplesant, but not really that big of a suprise. I'd imagine that although this got attention because of the fact that the kid just sent an email, there are a hundred other instances of other non-internet/email/sexy-technology-like cut corners across america. Personally I'll worry about cops shooting an unarmed man 40 something times because he was reaching for his wallet before I worry about little jimmy and his spam.


Why? Because you can't walk and chew gum at the sa (2.50 / 6) (#12)
by DAldredge on Sun May 20, 2001 at 01:30:05 PM EST

Why? Because you can't walk and chew gum at the same time? You do know that it IS possible to be concerned about more than ONE thing at once...

The word is American, not USian.
American \A*mer"i*can\, n. A native of America; -- originally applied to the aboriginal inhabitants, but now applied to the descendants of Europeans born in America, and especially to the citizens of the US
[ Parent ]
My newborn baby was taken away from me tonight :( (2.45 / 24) (#10)
by Jonathan Walther on Sun May 20, 2001 at 12:02:28 PM EST

Read about it here. http://reactor-core.org/~djw/diary.html

Basically 2 hours after my baby is born, the police take me out of the hospital and say if I go back in they'll toss me in jail. They took custody of my wife, who was injured in a car accident, as well as the child. She just called me wondering why I left :-( Fuller details at the url above.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")

post this as a story please (4.60 / 5) (#13)
by typhatix on Mon May 21, 2001 at 12:30:54 AM EST

I just followed the link and that has to be the strangest thing I've ever heard. Post a story if you have time (I'm sure you've got a lot going on in your life with a new baby whose been kidnapped by the government). Maybe the Canadian K5ers can raise a stink by calling their representatives. Very weird situation, I wish you the best of luck.

[ Parent ]
Posted to Buzz.CA (4.00 / 2) (#26)
by delfstrom on Mon May 21, 2001 at 10:37:27 PM EST

I've started a discussion on Buzz.CA about this.

I'm still reading through his diary in chronological order, in an attempt to find out some more background on the story. Man, it's tough to be inside someone else's head like that.

[ Parent ]

Post it as a story (4.50 / 4) (#14)
by Pseudonym on Mon May 21, 2001 at 01:04:20 AM EST

I agree. Submit it as a story.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Please post as story (4.33 / 3) (#17)
by finkployd on Mon May 21, 2001 at 10:40:52 AM EST

Holy crap man, my heart goes out to you. This is one of the more sad stories I've heard in a long series of "out of control social worker" stories. This kind of thing happens in the US quite a bit, it's sad to see that it's spreading north.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
[ Parent ]
hey, you started it (3.85 / 7) (#18)
by cory on Mon May 21, 2001 at 11:00:12 AM EST

First let me say I hope you get this mess cleared up quickly. I don't know all the facts here (and from what you said in your diary, neither do you), but from what little can be gleaned at this point it looks like the social worker was trying to handle someone who was perceived to be bullying the hospital staff. Having been to two childbirths myself, and expecting a third in July, let me say that you, as the father, *do not matter in the slightest*, only mother and child do. You are there to assist the doctor and nurses, and if you get in the way they can, and will, remove you from the room. So next time, shut up, do as you're told, and try not to bully anyone.

As for why social services were called in, the nurses were probably too afraid of you to ask you to leave, and have other patients to attend to. It's easier for them to just call the cops. Since they likely weren't much taken by you, they probably don't care that you can't see your child now.

And lastly, it's more than a little disenguiness to say your child was "kidnapped" when both child and mother are still in the hospital. You're just not allowed to see them.

Note: I'm a little offended that you claim acting like an asshole is a part of "hacker culture".


[ Parent ]
s/disenguiness/disingenuous/ (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by cory on Mon May 21, 2001 at 11:04:51 AM EST

I just got up, haven't had any caffiene yet, so sue me.


[ Parent ]
I agree... (4.33 / 3) (#28)
by tzanger on Tue May 22, 2001 at 08:31:45 AM EST

Having been to two births (by caesarian) myself, cory is 100% right. In the birthing room YOU DO NOT MATTER. The list of priorities are, as follows, 1. The baby. Absolute TOP priority. 2. The mother. A VERY close second. 3. The hospital staff. The father does NOT come into that list of priorities at all, EVER.

Sexist? Damn right. Should it be this way? Absolutely. They've got enough to worry about without making sure that daddy says it's okay.

I am really sorry that they did this to you; it looks like they wanted to make an example of you. I don't believe what they did was right -- they should have just ejected you from the room with a very large, stern nurse explaining what I said in the first paragraph. They should NOT have got Protective Services involved. They fuck up 90% of what they get their hands on because the work they do is so tricky.

Again, I am really sorry. It looks like you pissed off one of the birthing staff and they decided to go on a power trip. I really hope you get to see your baby soon.

[ Parent ]
That is messed up! (4.33 / 3) (#21)
by cable on Mon May 21, 2001 at 11:17:03 AM EST

I don't know the whole story, but it sounds messed up to me. I hope that you sort it out and fix it.

Aren't you the one that had your downstairs neighbor steal your CD collection? Jim the Junkie or whatever his name was? Maybe he called in a false report to the Police to get even with you for something?

Only you, can help prevent Neb Rage!
[ Parent ]

Re: Your story (5.00 / 1) (#31)
by mcherm on Fri Jun 01, 2001 at 07:10:27 PM EST

Submit this as a news story. I'll vote for it +1 immediately.

-- Michael Chermside
[ Parent ]
A thought (3.33 / 3) (#23)
by jd on Mon May 21, 2001 at 03:18:26 PM EST

First, the US Constitution, and virtually every other safeguard known to mankind, is typically deprived a child, on the grounds that "adults know better".

(When, exactly, adults started knowing "better", or indeed knowing much of anything at all, is unclear and lost in the mists of time. Probably when it fell out of said adult's pocket.)

The attitude of those over 18 (21 in some areas) is fascinating. Such people have divine right to do as they please, to whom they please. (Which is remarkable, as most don't even believe in a God who could grant such a right to them!)

On the other hand, those same adults will typically be the first to cry foul, when anyone attempts to grant those children the same rights.

(Worse, when anyone tries to intervene when the adult imposes their "rights" over the child, through brute force and sheer bulk.)

This story isn't disturbing. Even remotely. The implications are the disturbing part. Implications such as:

  • Kids learn by example, usually off their parents. If this kid has learned that violence and threats are "cool", then it's because one or both of his parents are violent and probably very dangerous.
  • The kid will get punished. The actual fact-finding will come later. Facts get in the way of "discipline", so it's best not to get to those first.
  • If these "threatened" kids turn out to be violent bullies, alchoholics, elitist, or otherwise plain nasty, don't expect that to come out. It would completely ruin the story of this psycho computer nerd.
  • Situations typically build-up. They don't explode without warning. The warnings are just usually ignored. "Kids will be kids". So, just how many warnings -did- the parents, teachers and other kids in the school totally ignore?
  • Schools can, of course, always teach and promote mature conflict resolution. This must be why the police were the first ones called in.
  • If the e-mails came into the school, where exactly was the school firewall? Or do they normally encourage kids to communicate with any stranger they meet on the Internet?
  • What were the police doing, seizing the computer, anyway? They expect to find fingerprints? A tiny gnome, inside, stamping the e-mails with postmarks? Don't know about anyone else, but if I were to send an e-mail that might not go down too well, I'd probably not leave a copy in the "sent-mail" folder, in plain text, in a clearly-marked directory, with large, neon signs saying "mystery plot device, this way!"

THESE are the things that trouble me. The raid itself was a piffling affair, in comparison. Indeed, it couldn't have even occured, had ANY ONE of these points been addressed, first.

Do you like your society roasted or boiled?

Student Rights (3.00 / 4) (#25)
by ls12 on Mon May 21, 2001 at 07:32:04 PM EST

First, Students have no rights.
People under the age of 21 have limited consitutional rights.

Next it depends where he lived.
If he lived in a dorm anyone in the building who has access to
your stuff could authorize the search of the room (for a file
server any one who connects?). If he lives at home it is another

Here is the scare part. Exigent circumstances: if the police
feel that you will destroy evidence they don't need a warrent; they don't
need to knock. All they need is reasonable cause.

This case maybe one of them.

Dear Useless Reader. (2.00 / 2) (#30)
by SnowBlind on Tue May 22, 2001 at 11:47:47 AM EST

<Rant on>
RTFA, before you make a stupid comment like "If he lives at home it is another story." It IS this story.
Go read zdnet or something, and reduce the signal to noise ratio here.
<Rant off>
The student may not have the rights, but the owner/renter/parent damn well does, and the police should have their hand slapped and possible sued. If the police think they can get away with this crap they will, AND YOU ARE NEXT.

There is but One Kernel, and root is His Prophet.
[ Parent ]
Teen's Computer Seized Without Search Warrant | 31 comments (30 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!