District Court of Massachusetts rejects argument that Carpenter provides additional protections for email correspondence

In this distribution and possession of child pornography prosecution, the defendant moved to suppress a number of items. Relevant to this blog is his request to suppress email correspondence.

Federal prosecutors served a federal grand jury subpoena on Craigslist that directed the company to produce subscriber information for three of the Craigslist users whose emails had appeared in a target’s Yahoo account. One of these email addresses belonged to the defendant.

Recognizing that they would need a search warrant to obtain the content of the defendant’s communications, they got one. Yahoo subsequently gave up thousands of emails as well as the defendant’s address.

The Defendant first argued unsuccessfully that law enforcement illegally obtained the first target’s emails. The Court decided that this Defendant had no expectation of privacy in someone else’s email account. The Court here rejected the notion that Carpenter changes the analysis here.

The third-party doctrine therefore controlled here. This case is handy because it cites a number of the email decisions that were handed down prior to this case, noting that they all dealt with the Defendant’s email account instead of someone else’s account: United States v. Ackerman, 831 F.3d 1292, 1304 (10th Cir. 2016); In re Grand Jury Subpoena, JK-15-029, 828 F.3d 1083, 1090 (9th Cir. 2016); United States v. Warshak, 631 F.3d 266, 288 (6th Cir. 2010); United States v. Forrester, 512 F.3d 500, 511 (9th Cir. 2008); United States v. Keith, 980 F. Supp. 2d 33, 39-40 (D. Mass. 2013).

The defendant (in my opinion wisely) argued the alternative Justice Gorsuch style property analysis, but the court was not persuaded because the defendant had no control over the target’s email account. .

The case is United States v. Johnson, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29461, 2019 WL 917175 D. Mass. February 25, 2019.

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