A judge in Kings County has suppressed evidence which would have shown a man charged with a sexual crime photographed the child sex victim. The evidence was not allowed to be presented in court. This was an interpretation by a judge in Brooklyn of the United States Supreme Court precedent which protects cell phones under the fourth amendment to the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court case stated cell phone material is protected and a search warrant is required to view the material on a cell phone.
About the Case
There had been a case in King County, Criminal Court before Judge Michael Gerstein. The case involved a Satmar Orthodox Jewish spiritual counselor who had molested a young girl for a period of three years. During the course of the trial he was charged with 59 counts of sexual abuse. He was convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Spectator at Trial – Cell Phone Search
During the course of the trial, the judge admonished spectators in the courtroom not to utilize their cell phones. Yona Weissman, who was in attendance at the trial, in violation of the judge’s order, utilized her cell phone for photographs during the course of the trial inside of the courtroom. A court officer took the cell phone from her and searched it. On the cell phone the court officer found photographs of the victim. Yona Weissman was charged with crimes related to the evidence uncovered during the search of her cell phone.
Judge Gerstein sitting in the Supreme Court in Kings County stated in his decision the search violated the Supreme Court’s recent holding in the matter of Riley v. California. The photographs of a sexual abuse victim could not be used in the prosecution of Ms. Weissman.
With the advance of technology, cell phones now store huge amounts of individuals’ private information. Although in this case a person guilty of a crime may have avoided conviction, it is important that privacy rights of Americans be maintained. Cell phones now have the capabilities that only a few years ago were reserved for desktop computers. Many individuals have all of their personal information, life history, photographs and all types of materials on cell phones. They need to be protected from reasonable search and seizure. The fourth amendment to the United States Constitution requires a search warrant under current law to search the material in a cell phone.