United States v. Moorehead, No. 18-5216 (6th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
The FBI accessed Playpen and verified that the website contained child pornography, then executed a search warrant at a North Carolina server hosting company that owned the IP address. The FBI seized a server that contained a copy of Playpen. Because of a server misconfiguration, the government was able to gain administrative control of the website. For two weeks, the FBI operated Playpen from a Virginia government-controlled computer server but was unable to identify the individuals who logged on. The FBI turned to counter-technology called NIT, which downloads on the user’s computer and sends back information. An Eastern District of Virginia magistrate signed a warrant authorizing the government to deploy NIT on “any user or administrator who logs into [Playpen] by entering a username and password.” NIT identified the IP address associated with a Playpen visitor’s username. An administrative subpoena was sent to the Internet Service Provider that operated that address. The response led to Moorehead's Tennessee residence. The government obtained a residential warrant and seized Moorehead’s computer equipment. Moorehead admitted that he used the Internet to view child pornography. He was indicted under 18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(4)(B) and 2252(a)(2). He unsuccessfully moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the NIT Warrant violated 28 U.S.C. 636(a) because it was executed outside of the magistrate’s territorial jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, applying the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule.