United States v. Bateman, No. 18-3977 (6th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
The Playpen website, a message board for advertising and distributing child pornography, is within the “dark-web,” protected by the “Tor hidden service network,” rendering the website relatively inaccessible. A foreign law enforcement agency alerted FBI agents of its suspicions that a U.S.-based IP address was used to house Playpen. Agents identified the server and executed a search warrant, which allowed them to create a duplicate server at a government facility in the Eastern District of Virginia. The FBI assumed administrative control of the website, then obtained a search warrant from the Eastern District of Virginia to employ a Network Investigative Technique (NIT) to unmask anonymous users. The NIT warrant led the District Court of the Southern District of Ohio to issue a search warrant that allowed authorities to search Bateman’s residence and computer where they found over 599 illicit images of children. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of motions to suppress the evidence and for a "Franks" hearing, to question Agent Macfarlane, who submitted the affidavit to obtain the NIT warrant. The search of Bateman’s home was valid under the good-faith exception. Agent Macfarlane’s affidavit provided a detailed and sufficiently specific picture of Playpen and of the NIT program; it accurately described the locations to be searched, which necessarily included locations outside of the Eastern District of Virginia, and accurately described the NIT’s operation as triggered only when an activating computer’s signals entered the Eastern District of Virginia.