United States v. Apple Mac Pro Computer, No. 17-3205 (3d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Officers executed a search warrant at Rawls’ residence, yielding an iPhone 6 and a Mac Pro Computer with attached external hard drives, all protected with encryption software. With a warrant, forensic analysts discovered the password to decrypt the Mac Pro but could not determine the passwords for the external hard drives. The Mac Pro revealed an image of a pubescent girl in a sexually provocative position, logs showing that it had visited likely child exploitation websites and that Rawls had downloaded thousands of files known to be child pornography. Those files were stored on the external hard drives. Rawls’ sister stated that Rawls had shown her child pornography on the external hard drives. A Magistrate ordered Rawls to unencrypt the devices. Rawls cited the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The court denied Rawls’ motion, reasoning the act of decrypting the devices would not be testimonial. Rawls decrypted the iPhone, which contained 20 photographs that focused on the genitals of Rawls’ six-year-old niece. Rawls stated that he could not remember the passwords for the hard drives. The Third Circuit affirmed a civil contempt finding.
Rawls, incarcerated since September 2015, moved for release, arguing that 28 U.S.C. 1826(a) limits the maximum confinement for civil contempt to 18 months. The Third Circuit ordered his release, rejecting the government’s argument that Rawls was not a “witness” participating in any “proceeding before or ancillary to any court or grand jury.” The proceedings to enforce the search warrant fall within the statute’s broad description of any “proceeding before or ancillary to any court or grand jury," the Decryption Order is “an order of the court to testify or provide other information,” and section 1826(a) applies to the detention of any material witness, even if that person is also a suspect in connection with other offenses.