United States v. Cox, No. 21-1744 (7th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
The FBI was alerted to a predatory scheme involving various Facebook accounts and (apparently) many victims, including minors. The perpetrator used a Facebook account under a false name, telling the victims that he had nude photos of them, taken from a Facebook account he had “hacked.” He said he would leak the photos if the victims did not meet his demands—chiefly, sending more explicit material. The FBI tracked the internet address associated with some of the messages to Burns Construction, where Cox worked. Agents went to Burns Construction without a search warrant. An owner agreed to allow the agents to search and image the computer in Cox’s office. Cox was not present. The agents then went to Cox’s home. They assured Cox that he could end the conversation at any time and that he would not be arrested that night. When Cox proposed helping the FBI investigate the broader sextortion network in exchange for leniency, the agents responded that such an arrangement was beyond their control. Cox nonetheless made numerous incriminating statements and let the agents take his personal laptop.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed Cox’s convictions, rejecting Cox’s claims of Fourth Amendment violations based on the warrantless search, Fifth Amendment violations based on the failure to give Miranda warning, and Sixth Amendment violations based on the court’s evidentiary and procedural decisions. There was sufficient evidence to support his convictions.