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United States v. Inman

March 5, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
JASON D. INMAN, APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colloton, Circuit Judge

Submitted: January 15, 2008

Before COLLOTON and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges, and ERICKSON,*fn1 District Judge.

Jason D. Inman was indicted on three counts of possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B). Before trial, he moved to suppress evidence seized during an investigation by the government. The district court*fn2 denied the motion, and a jury convicted Inman on all three counts. Inman moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to prove the jurisdictional element of the offense as charged to the jury. The district court denied the motion, and eventually sentenced Inman to 110 months' imprisonment. Inman appeals the denial of the motion to suppress and the motion for judgment of acquittal. We affirm.

I.

Inman was employed as a paramedic by the Ste. Genevieve County Ambulance District in Missouri. On Saturday, March 11, 2006, Inman was away from the ambulance station responding to a call for service. Two other employees of the ambulance service, Captain Brian Watson and Bill Becker, were at the station having a conversation about Inman's new girlfriend. Watson could not remember her name, so he opened Inman's personal laptop to see if she was included on Inman's instant-messenger list. The laptop was turned on and sitting on the kitchen table in the station.

Watson did not find the name of Inman's girlfriend, but as he was about to close the computer lid, he noticed icons on the computer screen with file names that suggested child pornography, namely, "pedoMarie," "10-year-old prostitute," and "Parents teach eight, nine, and 10-year-olds sex." Watson and Becker clicked on the icons, viewed three videos accessed through the icons, and observed minors engaging in sexual acts.

Watson then called a friend, a local police chief, to ask for advice. After Watson presented a "theoretical" story describing what he and Becker had found, the friend suggested that they report the incident. Watson called Kendall Schrum, the ambulance district administrator, who told Watson not to confront Inman, and that an investigation would ensue after the weekend.

On the following Monday, Watson reported what he had found to Lieutenant Jason Schott of the Ste. Genevieve County Sheriff's Department. Using the information that Watson provided, Schott obtained a search warrant for Inman's computer. Inman also consented to a search of his house. The police found child pornography on the hard drive of Inman's computer and on DVDs found in Inman's house.

A grand jury charged Inman with three counts of possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B). He moved to suppress evidence seized from his home and computer on the ground that it was the fruit of an illegal search of his computer by Watson. Inman argued that Watson's actions, as a government employee and Inman's supervisor, were regulated by the Fourth Amendment, and that Watson violated Inman's rights by searching the computer without a warrant.

After a hearing, a magistrate judge recommended that the motion be denied, determining that Watson was not Inman's supervisor at the time, and that Watson and Becker were acting as private individuals, not government agents, when they found the child pornography on the computer. The district court, conducting a de novo review, adopted the facts found by the magistrate judge and denied the motion to suppress. The district court found that "in opening the Defendant's laptop and viewing the files contained within it, Becker and Watson were not acting as government agents but in their personal capacities[;] therefore, there was no government action that could result in a violation of the Fourth Amendment." With the disputed evidence then presented at trial, a jury convicted Inman on all three counts.

II.

A.

Inman first challenges the district court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence. We review the district court's findings of fact for clear error, and review de novo whether the searches violated the Fourth Amendment. Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 698-99 (1996); United States v. Olivera-Mendez, 484 F.3d 505, 509 (8th Cir. 2007). Because this case proceeded to trial, we examine the entire record, not merely the evidence adduced at the suppression ...


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