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United States v. Chiu

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 8, 2019

HANFORD CHIU, Defendant.


          Denise J. Casper, United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Defendant Hanford Chiu (“Chiu”) has moved to suppress the evidence seized from the search of his residence, conducted pursuant to a warrant obtained on August 22, 2018. D. 69. Having considered the motion (and supporting memorandum and exhibits), D. 69-70, 77, the government's opposition, D. 75, and having heard oral argument on the motion, D. 78, the Court DENIES the motion. Accordingly, the Court makes its findings of fact and legal analysis below.

         II. Findings of Fact

         A. The Iannaccone Affidavit

         Special Agent Joseph Iannaccone (“Iannaccone”) is employed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and had been so employed since 2009. D. 70-1 at 14. Iannaccone had experience with investigations of crimes involving high technology or cybercrime, child exploitation and child pornography. Id.

         On August 21, 2018, Iannaccone interviewed Warren Anderson (“Anderson”) in connection with Anderson's admission of possession, receipt and distribution of child pornography. Id. at 15. During Anderson's interviews, he told agents that he knew Chiu and that Chiu “shared [Anderson's] interest in child pornography.” Id. Anderson told agents that he and Chiu met up approximately once a week, including at Chiu's residence, and would view child pornography during approximately a quarter of those occasions. Id. at 15-16. Anderson described Chiu's residence as well as Chiu's computer (a “custom-built desktop computer”), which they used to view child pornography. Id. at 16. Anderson also referenced a specific website that he and Chiu visited that was known to law enforcement to be dedicated to the exchange of child pornography. Id. Anderson informed agents that on August 19, 2018, the most recent meeting between Anderson and Chiu, he and Chiu had viewed child pornography videos in Chiu's residence, including videos which included depictions of “boys as young as 10 years old involved in sexual conduct.” Id. Anderson defined child pornography as involving children under 18. Id. at 16 n.2. Anderson said he believed Chiu's child pornography collection was approximately 80 gigabytes worth of data. Id. at 16. Anderson also told agents that Chiu was a lawyer. Id. Agents searched Anderson's vehicle and located Chiu's business card giving the name of a law office in Brighton, MA, and confirmed through the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers website that Chiu was registered as an attorney in Massachusetts having passed the bar in 2015. Id. at 17.

         Iannaccone provided background information on characteristics common to consumers of child pornography based on his training and experience as well as information on the search and seizure of computer systems and data. Id. at 17-22. Iannaccone attached a description and photograph of Chiu's residence to the affidavit. Id. at 23 (Attachment A). He also included a list of items to be seized, including records and tangible objects relating to child pornography and communications about the sexual exploitation of children and any computer hardware, software, documentation or storage media that might contain evidence, fruits or instrumentalities relating to child pornography. Id. at 24-25 (Attachment B).

         B. Search of Chiu's Residence

         On August 22, 2018, Magistrate Judge Cabell granted the search warrant for Chiu's residence to search and seize the items specified in Attachment B. Id. at 1. DHS agents executed the warrant that same day. D. 3-1 at 2. Agents seized a custom-built desktop computer, three removable storage drives, a laptop, a Samsung cell phone, an Apple iPhone, an Amazon Echo and a tablet computer. Id. While on scene, agents conducted a forensic preview of the desktop computer and its three hard drives. Id. During that preview, agents observed filed that they believed to contain child pornography. Id. Agents arrested Chiu on August 22, 2018 on charges of receipt and possession of child pornography. D. 3.

         III. Discussion

         A. Probable Cause Standard

         The Fourth Amendment requires probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant. Whiteley v. Warden, 401 U.S. 560, 564 (1971). This standard requires a showing of “a probability or substantial chance of criminal activity, not an actual showing of such activity.” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 243 n.13 (1983). Sufficient information must be presented to the magistrate issuing such a warrant to allow her to determine independently whether probable cause exists. Id. at 239. In reviewing the adequacy of probable cause for a warrant, a reviewing court is “tasked with making a judgment based on what appears within the four corners of the affidavit.” United States v. Tanguay, 787 F.3d 44, 53 (1st Cir. 2015). It is well settled that there is A>a presumption of validity with respect to the affidavit supporting the search warrant.'" United States v. Tzannos, 460 F.3d 128, 136 (1st Cir. 2006) (quoting Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 171 (1978)). Accordingly, a reviewing court should give “great deference” to the magistrate's determination of probable cause. Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410, 419 (1969).

         Where a defendant challenges the legality of a search conducted pursuant to a search warrant, he bears the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the search was unlawful. United States. v. Legault, 323 F.Supp.2d 217, 220 (D. Mass. 2004); see United States v. Burdulis, No. 10-40003, 2011 WL 1898941, at *3 (D. Mass. May 19, 2011) (citing cases). The issue for the reviewing court is whether "the totality of the circumstances" in the affidavit afforded the clerk magistrate a "substantial basis for determining the existence of probable cause" for the search. Gates, 462 U.S. at 238. A reviewing court "must examine the affidavit in a practical, commonsense fashion" and "accord considerable deference to a magistrate's determination that ...

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