POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 20, 2009
A federal judge has thrown out evidence from a baggage search at the Hilo Airport last year that discovered photographs of naked children.
U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright ruled Tuesday that the search by federal Transportation Security Administration officers went beyond the scope of their duties to find weapons and explosives.
He also concluded that a TSA officer's recollections of the August 2008 search were vague and contradictory.
The searched bag belonged to Simon Jasper McCarty, who lives in the United Kingdom. He was in Hawaii to give a seminar on drum circles. He has been in custody since his arrest at the airport.
Prosecutors did not comment on the ruling on Tuesday.
HONOLULU HI Nov 19 2009 – A federal judge in Hawaii on Tuesday threw out all the evidence against a man caught with child pornography at Hilo Airport.
The judge ruled that screeners went too far in searching the man’s luggage.
In a ruling that could affect the way the Transportation Security Administration screens luggage. The evidence thrown out on Tuesday included video of the suspect having sex with at least three young boys, prosecutors said.
"You have to let that person off because his rights were violated,” defense attorney William Harrison said.
Harrison represented Simon Jasper McCarty, 37, whom prosecutors said had hundreds of child porn items in his luggage, including videos of his encounters with boys.
Judge J. Michael Seabright ruled that the airport screening that caught McCarty was improper.While going through McCarty’s luggage the screener said some suspicious photos fell out on the table. She then called over another screener, who happened to be her daughter. The judge said that was wrong. To make it worse, the screener could not remember later what they would seen in the first place to make them suspicious.
The law does allow screeners to report illegal contraband, but only if it is in plain sight while they look for weapons or bombs.
The judge wrote, “that the screeners did not confine their search as required and instead began their own criminal investigation into the nature of the photographs.”
"Once she had determined there was no safety factors in the items in the luggage she had no right to go beyond that and violate my client’s right to privacy,” Harrison said.