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United States v. Dahl

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 3, 2014





Harvey Bartle III, J.

The superseding indictment charges defendant William S. Dahl with three counts of the use of an interstate facility to entice an individual defendant believed to be a minor to engage in sexual activity (18 U.S.C. § 2422(b)), one count of attempted enticement of an individual defendant believed to be a minor to travel in interstate commerce to engage in sexual activity (18 U.S.C. § 2422(a)), one count of transfer of obscene material to an individual defendant believed to be a minor (18 U.S.C. § 1470), and one count of commission of a felony offense involving a minor while registered as a sex offender (18 U.S.C. § 2260A).

Before the court is the motion of defendant to suppress evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He contends that one of his cell phones was unlawfully seized and searched without a warrant having first been procured. At the time he was a probationer under the supervision of the State of Delaware Office of Probation and Parole. The court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion.

The Government presented as its only witness Edward Rutkowski, a Senior Probation Officer with the State of Delaware. He has supervised sex offenders on probation for the last three years and was supervising Dahl at the time of the events in question.

Dahl was released from confinement and placed on probation in Delaware on February 4, 2013 after having been convicted of a sex offense. Upon his release, he signed

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several documents entitled " Conditions of Supervision," " Electronic Monitoring Equipment Acknowledgment & Receipt," and " Sex Offender Conditions of Supervision." He was placed on electronic monitoring so that his probation officer knew where he was at all times. He was not permitted to leave the State of Delaware and was subject to a curfew. No contact with anyone under 21 years old was allowed, although he was authorized to have a cell phone with no internet connection.

His conditions of supervision, among other restrictions, provided that " you are subject to arrest and to a search of your living quarters, person or vehicle without a warrant at any time by a probation/parole officer." Dahl also signed a written acknowledgment: " Using a computer, modem, or network interfacing device for any purpose which may further sexual activity is strictly prohibited. I understand that any computer, related equipment, and storage devices are subject to seizure by the probation officer if during an examination the probation officer finds any evidence of inappropriate or prohibited use."

Probation Officer Rutkowski began his supervision of Dahl on March 13, 2013, a little over a month after he was placed on probation. At that time he reviewed with Dahl the various conditions of probation to which Dahl was subject. In addition, throughout the time of Dahl's probation until he was arrested on November 21, 2013, Rutkowski met with him weekly in the probation office and almost every week in the field. Up to mid-November, Rutkowski was not aware of any violation of probation by Dahl.

On November 14, 2013, a Delaware State Police officer informed Rutkowski that an undercover law enforcement officer from Delaware County, Pennsylvania, posing as a fifteen-yearold boy, had been communicating with Dahl through e-mails and text messages. The Delaware State Police officer followed up with a second call to Rutkowski on November 20, 2013.

As a result of these two conversations, it became clear to Rutkowski that Dahl had used the internet to create a posting on the website seeking sex with a young white male, that he had communicated via e-mail and text message with the undercover officer who responded to this posting apparently believing the officer to be a fifteen-year-old boy who lived in Pennsylvania, and that he had sent the undercover officer two photographs, one depicting his face and the other depicting a penis. Rutkowski also learned from these conversations that Dahl had attempted to persuade the " fifteen-year-old" to travel from Pennsylvania to Delaware for a sexual encounter. They had agreed to meet at a specific location near Dahl's home in Wilmington, Delaware on the evening of November 21, 2013.

At approximately 5:30 p.m. on November 21, representatives of the Delaware County, Pennsylvania District Attorney's Office, the Delaware State Police, the Delaware Department of Justice, and the Delaware Office of Probation and Parole convened for a briefing on a plan to arrest Dahl later that evening. Rutkowski was present as was the undercover officer who had posed as a fifteen-year-old boy in his interactions with Dahl. At that time, Rutkowski viewed the photographs Dahl had sent to the undercover officer as well as the text of the communications between Dahl and the officer.

After the briefing, Rutkowski and two other officers drove in an unmarked car to a building in Wilmington, Delaware where Dahl was attending a sex-offender-treatment meeting. The officers carried with them a computer which enabled them to identify Dahl's whereabouts by tracking the electronic monitoring device that he

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wore at all times as a condition of his probation. From the car, Rutkowski observed Dahl exit the meeting and enter his own vehicle, which was approximately 1000 feet away from where the officers were parked.

Dahl drove to the boardinghouse in which he was residing at the time. As he pulled into the driveway and parked, he was approached by members of the Delaware Special Operations Response Team, who pulled him from his car and restrained him. Rutkowski approached Dahl's car immediately thereafter. As he did so, one of the apprehending officers told him that he had seen Dahl reach for an object on the passenger seat. On the passenger seat of Dahl's car, Rutkowski observed two cell phones. One was a smartphone that Rutkowski did not know Dahl had. Rutkowski retrieved these two phones. He also opened the lid of the car's center console and retrieved a third cell phone that he located therein.

As soon as Rutkowski possessed the phones, the undercover officer who had been communicating with Dahl used his own cell phone to call the number Dahl had provided to him during their communications. When he ...

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