United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
William E. Smith, Chief Judge
12, 2016, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant
for the Warwick, Rhode Island residence of Defendant Jordan
Monroe. The agents' search uncovered a hoard of child
pornography on various computers and digital storage devices.
A federal grand jury subsequently indicted Monroe for
allegedly producing, receiving, and possessing such materials
in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2251 and 2252.
trail of digital breadcrumbs that led to Monroe's door
began with several pornographic videos downloaded from an
internet file sharing service by an unknown user. Pursuant to
§ 2703(d) of the Stored Communications Act, the
Government obtained orders from two federal magistrate judges
from the District of Columbia requiring the Georgia-based
file sharing service to disclose the unique internet protocol
(“IP”) address for any device that had downloaded
the illicit files. The Government later learned from an
internet service provider that the disclosed IP address was
assigned to an individual at Monroe's residence.
has moved for an order suppressing “all evidence
obtained as a result of the unlawful acquisition of [his] IP
address.” (Def.'s Mot. to Suppress 1, ECF No. 24.)
He argues that the § 2703(d) disclosure orders were void
ab initio because the District of Columbia
magistrate judges lacked jurisdiction over the alleged crime.
Relying on the Supreme Court's reasoning in Carpenter
v. United States, 138 S.Ct. 2206 (2018), Monroe also
contends that the Government violated his Fourth Amendment
rights by procuring his IP address without a search warrant
supported by probable cause. Neither argument is tenable.
Thus, for the reasons stated below, Monroe's Motion to
Suppress (ECF No. 24) is DENIED.
September 2015, agents from Homeland Security Investigations
(“HSI”) and personnel from the U.S. Department of
Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, High
Technology Investigative Unit (“CEOS-HTIU”)
jointly investigated an internet-based bulletin board
dedicated to the advertisement, distribution, and production
of child pornography. (Search Warrant Appl. Aff. of James V.
Richardson (“Richardson Aff.”) ¶¶ 6,
10, ECF No. 25-5.) The bulletin board is located on
“The Onion Router” or “TOR, ” a
network which masks users' location and usage data to
avoid surveillance. (Id. ¶ 7.) Only members can
download content from the bulletin board; a prospective
member must post pornographic content to the site to access
additional privileges. (Id. ¶ 8.)
identified and captured content from numerous board posts
throughout the autumn and early winter. (Id. ¶
10.) These posts included links to URLs enabling members
to view and download video files. (See 1/4/16 Appl.
for § 2703(d) Order (“1/4/16 Appl.”)
¶¶ 5-6, ECF No. 25-3; 12/7/15 Appl. for §
2703(d) Order (“12/7/15 Appl.”) ¶¶ 5-6,
ECF No. 25-1.) HSI agents working at the CEOS-HTIU in
Washington, D.C. accessed the bulletin board in an undercover
capacity, downloaded the suspect video files from the
posts' URLs, and reviewed the files to confirm their
illicit content. (Richardson Aff. ¶¶ 10-11; 12/7/15
Appl. ¶ 6.)
video files posted to the bulletin board were stored or
“hosted” on servers maintained by a separate,
cloud-based file sharing site (“FSS”).
(See Richardson Aff. ¶ 12.) In the ordinary
course of its business, the FSS maintains records about users
who upload or download content to its servers, including the
IP addresses of devices associated with such
events. (See id. ¶ 16; 12/7/15 Appl.
¶ 7.) The FSS maintains its operations and stores its
data in Atlanta, Georgia. (See 12/7/15 Appl. at 1.)
early December, the Government applied to the United States
District Court for the District of Columbia under 18 U.S.C.
§ 2703(d) for an order compelling the FSS to produce its
records for eleven URLs linking to video files depicting
child pornography. (See generally id.) A District of
Columbia magistrate judge granted the application.
(See Order 1, ECF No. 25-2.) The order required the
FSS to disclose, among other records: (1) the IP address of
any device that uploaded or downloaded content from the
target URLs; and (2) the dates and times these files were
uploaded or downloaded. (Id. at Attach. A.) The
Government followed an identical investigative process to
support an application for a § 2703(d) order for records
related to eighteen more URLs on January 6, 2016. (See
generally 1/4/16 Appl.) The January application was also
granted. (See Order 1, ECF No. 25-4.)
records produced in response to the orders revealed that two
particular IP addresses downloaded or attempted to download
the illicit content hosted by the FSS' servers on October
27, 2015 and December 31, 2015. (Richardson Aff. ¶¶
17, 27.) Using publicly available search tools, the
Government identified the internet service provider that
controlled these IP addresses. (Id. ¶¶ 18,
28.) The internet service provider, in response to Department
of Justice subpoenas, disclosed that in both instances the IP
address was assigned to a subscriber at Monroe's Warwick,
Rhode Island residence. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 29.)
Government agents conducted further surveillance and
investigated the home's occupants, including Monroe.
(Id. ¶¶ 20-24.)
10, 2016, the Government set forth the substance of these
facts in an application for a search warrant for the Warwick
residence. (See generally Appl. for Search Warrant,
ECF No. 25-5.) The application was submitted to and approved
by a magistrate judge for the United States District Court
for the District of Rhode Island. (See Search &
Seizure Warrant, ECF No. 25-5.) Agents executed the search
warrant two days later, uncovering the cache of child
pornography. (See Aff. of James V. Richardson in
Support of an Appl. for Cr. Compl. 2-3, ECF No. 1-2). Monroe
made incriminating statements to government agents during a
contemporaneous interview. (Id. at 3; see
also Mem. & Order 9-19, ECF No. 29 (denying motion
to suppress statements made during interrogation in
the District of Columbia Magistrate Judges Have Jurisdiction
to Issue the § 2703(d) Orders?
privacy of stored electronic communications and
transac-tional records is governed by the federal Stored
Communications Act (“SCA”). See
generally 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2711. Section 2703
of the SCA specifically establishes “the rules that the
government must follow when it seeks to compel a [third-party
service] provider to disclose information.” Orin S.
Kerr, A User's Guide to the Stored Communications
Act, and a Legislator's Guide to Amending it, 72
Geo. Wash.L.Rev. 1208, 1218 (2004). The standard the Government
must satisfy to compel disclosure varies with the nature of
the materials requested. Basic subscriber information such as
a customer's name, address, or payment details may be
easily procured from a provider through a subpoena.
See 18 U.S.C. § 2703(c)(2). If the Government
seeks the content of stored electronic ...