Wahpeton man accuses feds of illegal searchA Wahpeton, N.D., man facing federal child pornography charges says authorities obtained the evidence against him through an illegal search of his apartment last year.
By: By Kristen M. Daum, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO – A Wahpeton, N.D., man facing federal child pornography charges says authorities obtained the evidence against him through an illegal search of his apartment last year.
Earlier this year, Benjamin Hager, 37, pleaded not guilty in Fargo’s U.S. District Court to two charges of sexually exploiting children.
In November, authorities searched Hager’s home to look for digital evidence that would prove a Detroit-area man had used his four daughters to create and distribute images of child pornography.
The search wasn’t intended to find evidence of any wrongdoing by Hager.
Hager’s attorney Rick Henderson argued in court documents this week that federal agents should have known before they conducted the search that they’d find no digital evidence in Hager’s home.
Hager didn’t have a computer and accessed the Internet using a TV-based web service that converted data to analog format, Henderson said.
To save anything, Hager had to record images on VHS videotapes, which contain only analog formatting and leave no digital footprint, Henderson said.
After the search, authorities viewed one of 747 VHS tapes they seized, finding what they believed were images of child pornography.
Authorities used the evidence to procure a second search warrant that allowed them to view the rest of the tapes.
But Henderson argues viewing the tape at all was beyond the scope of the first search warrant, and without the second, there would be no federal charges against Hager.
No decision had been made by Friday as to Henderson’s request to suppress the evidence, court records show.
If convicted, Hager faces decades in federal prison. He is being held until his trial, which is now scheduled for August.
Kristen Daum is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.