United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBER'S UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Suppress
Evidence (ECF No. 35). In it, Defendant requests that this
Court suppress the evidence gathered at his apartment
pursuant to a search warrant. Mot. to Suppress
Evidence, ECF No. 35, at 1-2. Defendant contends that
the factual basis provided in the application for that search
warrant was insufficient to support a finding of probable
cause. Id. 20. Central to his argument, Defendant
claims that the factual basis supporting the warrant
application predominately relied upon an anonymous tip that
was electronically submitted to the National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children (“NCMEC”).
Id. 2. Because the tip was given anonymously,
Defendant contends that it lacked the necessary reliability
to support the probable cause required for the issuance of
the search warrant for Defendant's home. See
Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Suppress Evidence,
ECF No. 36, at 8-13. However, the Court, as explained below,
finds that the factual information provided in the
application sufficiently supported a finding of probable
cause, and at the very least, the Leon “good
faith exception” will rectify any short comings
contained within the warrant application. Therefore, the
Court DENIES Defendant's Motion to
Suppress Evidence (ECF No. 35).
case stems from an anonymous tip received by the NCMEC via
its CyberTipline on June 4, 2017. The tip identified, by
name, a sixteen-year-old female (“Minor Female
1”) that it said had been missing from Chicago,
Illinois since May 9, 2017. The tip asserted that Minor
Female 1 was being “sex trafficked” and that
“[s]he is currently . . . confined by David Pelfry
(approx. age 39).” Ex. B to Mot. to Suppress
Evidence, ECF No. 35-2, at 4. Further, the tip
identified where Minor Female 1 would be located: “his
home 925 18th Street West, Huntington, West Virginia
25704.” Id. With particularity, the tip also
provided that Minor Female 1 had “been there since at
least 5/13/17 having been transported across state lines for
the purpose of prostitution.” Id.
then continued, providing information and links regarding
both Minor Female 1's and Defendant's various social
media sites, and pointing out that the two were
“friends” on Facebook. Id. Included
among the links was one to Minor Female 1's supposed page
on a site called SeekingArrangment.com. Id.
According to the tipster, Minor Female 1 was “shopped
around” on the website. Id.
SeekingArrangement.com is a forum where “members”
seek a relationship, which typically involves some financial
support being given. See generally Ex. D to Mot. to
Suppress Evidence, ECF No. 35-4. The website refers to
those “supporters” as “Sugar Daddies”
or “Sugar Mommas;” and the site also defines
“Sugar Babies” as “[a]ttractive people
looking for the finer things in life.” Id. at
5. On the member page of Minor Female 1, her “Lifestyle
Expectations” were listed as “Moderate.”
Ex. B to Mot. to Suppress Evidence, at 23.
the length of the tip, the tipster did not provide his or her
name, location, or contact number. Investigators at the NCMEC
attempted to locate the anonym tipster using an IP address
search. That search indicated that the IP address, from which
the tip originated, traced back to Poland. Id. at
15. But, the search also indicated that the tipster had
intentionally sought to hide his/her IP address by using a
datacenter proxy to “mask” the real IP address,
and a TOR browser that enables internet users to largely hide
their IP address by providing layers of encryption and IP
address redirection. See Id. at 16; see also
Gov.'s Reply to Def.'s Supp. Mem., ECF No. 58,
the course of multiple hours, individuals with the NCMEC
sought to confirm the abundance of information contained
within the anonymous tip. See Id. at 7-17.
Ultimately, the next day, June 5, 2017, the NCMEC forwarded
the tip, with supplemental notes from the NCMEC's
confirmatory investigation (together referred to as
“Cybertip Report” or “Cybertip”), to
the FBI detachment located within this District.
Gov.'s Resp., at 2. The local FBI detachment
then sent the Cybertip Report to the Huntington Police
receiving the Cybertip Report, the HPD reviewed it, and
confirmed some of the online information noted in the tip.
Id. at 3. Specifically, officers with the HPD
located Minor Female 1's profile on
SeekingArrangement.com. Id. With that confirmation
of Cybertip information, Sgt. Matt Null, Cpl. Jason Davis,
and Sgt. Eddie Prichard of the HPD went to Defendant's
home to conduct a “knock and talk.” Id.
After a few knocking attempts, Defendant answered the door.
Id. at 4.
officers told Defendant that they were looking for a missing
girl who was reported to be at his residence. Id.
Defendant gave the officers permission to enter his home and
to speak with Minor Female 1, who Defendant acknowledged was
in the residence. Id.; Mot. to Suppress
Evidence, at 8-9. Upon entering, Sgt. Null and Cpl.
Davis located Minor Female 1, confirmed her identity, and
engaged in a lengthy conversation with her. Id. at
4-5; Mot. to Suppress Evidence, at 8-9. Sgt.
Prichard remained outside with Defendant while the other two
officers spoke with Minor Female 1. Id. at 5. Later,
officers at Defendant's residence relayed information to
Detective Backus so that he could apply for a search warrant
for the home. Id. At roughly the same time, officers
asked Defendant go with them down to the police station to
answer questions. Id.; Mot. to Suppress
Evidence, at 10. Defendant complied with this request,
and later provided incriminating statement after being
Mirandized. Id. at 5, 8; Mot. to
Suppress Evidence, at 10, 13-15; Ex. H to Mot. to
Suppress Evidence, ECF No. 35-8, at 2.
applying for the warrant, Detective Backus provided the
following factual recitation:
On today's date a tip from the National Center for
missing [sic] and Exploited Chidlren [sic] that the defendant
was in possession of the victim (K.G.) [Minor Female 1] a
missing 16yr old, who was reported as a missing and
endangered juvenile from Chicago, Illinois. The victim was
declared missing on 05/09/2017 & tip said the victim was
transported across state lines for the purposes of
prostitution . . . Upon being asked how she met the
defendant, the victim stated they met on the
Ex. F to Mot. to Suppress Evidence, ECF No. 35-6, at
2. According to the affidavit, Detective Backus submitted to
the reviewing judge that these facts supported probable cause
to search Defendant's home, under suspicion for violation
of W.Va. Code § 61-3C-14b. Id. at 2, 5-7. The
reviewing judge agreed that this recitation supported
probable cause, and issued the search warrant.
to the warrant, police officers retrieved various items from
Defendant's apartment. Most relevantly, officers seized
two cell phone, as well as other provocative costumes and
toys. Gov.'s Resp., at 5; see also Ex. G to
Mot. to Suppress Evidence, ECF No. 35-7, at 3. Officers
obtained separate warrants for the cell phones and, after a
subsequent forensic analysis, they found various images and
videos of Minor Female 1 and Minor Female 2, as well as text