Archive | Cyberspace Law

Probable Cause and Internet Accounts in United States v. Frechette

Today the Sixth Circuit handed down a case on probable cause to search a home based in large part on a subscription to a child pornography website: United States v. Frechette. I blogged in detail about this issue a few years ago, so I wanted to cover the latest case, as well.

The defendant, Douglas Frechette, had a previous criminal history and was listed in the Michigan State Sex Offender Registry as living at a particular address in Muskegon, Michigan. Bank and drivers license records confirmed that he lived at that address. One day, Frechette created a PayPal account in his own name, linked to his own bank account, and from an IP addressed assigned to his home purchased a one-month subscription for $80 to a child pornography website, HTTP:\\[redacted]” The purchase of the one-month subscription was the only purchase Frechette ever made on his PayPal account. The opinion indicates that the homepage of the website was extremely clear that it was entirely about very disturbing images of child pornography. Visitors to the site were “welcomed” with very graphic and patently illegal images.

It is unclear how long the site stayed on line. A little more than a year after Frechette’s purchase, however, agents learned of the purchase and confirmed from the sex offender registry that Frechette still lived at the same address in Muskegon. The agents applied for a warrant to search Frechette’s home based on that information. A search of of the home led to the discovery of child pornography images and a confession by Frechette. That then led to charges against Frechette, and a motion to suppress the images and the confession as a fruit of an allegedly unlawful search.

The question in the case was whether the magistrate judge had a “substantial basis” to [...]

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Pro Bono Free Speech Case Headed to the Nebraska Supreme Court:

I’m delighted to say that the Nebraska Supreme Court has just agreed to review State v. Drahota (Neb. Ct. App. June 16), a case that I am litigating pro bono. We don’t have an oral argument date set yet, but it will probably be during the first week of November.  Here is my argument, from the 10-page petition for further review, on why the Nebraska Supreme Court should agree to hear the case; the argument on the merits — about why the Nebraska Supreme Court should reverse the decision below — will be quite similar, though of course not identical. Thanks again to Mayer Brown LLP (the firm with which I’m an academic affiliate) for providing support through their pro bono program; to Gene Summerlin of Ogborn, Summerlin & Ogborn for being pro bono local counsel; and, for their help as amici, to my coblogger David Post and the law professors who were willing to sign on to his amicus brief, to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and to the ACLU of Nebraska.


In early 2006, Appellant Darren J. Drahota was a University of Nebraska student who had been in William Avery’s political science class. Avery was still a University professor, but had announced that he was running for the Nebraska Legislature.

Drahota e-mailed Avery on Jan. 27, 2006, which led to an exchange of 18 e-mails over two weeks. At least one of Drahota’s e-mails used epithets and personal insults of Avery, alongside political commentary. One of Avery’s e-mails used an epithet and an insult of Drahota as well, saying “I am tired of this shit” and saying Drahota “and the ‘Chicken Hawks’ in the Bush Administration” didn’t “have the guts” to join the military. At the end of the exchange, Avery e-mailed Drahota saying, “Please [...]

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