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United States v. Werdene

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
883 F.3d 204 (2018)


Facts

Child pornography website Playpen operated on an anonymous dark-web router that allowed users to conceal their IP addresses. The FBI seized Playpen’s server, moved it to the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA), and kept Playpen operating while attempting to identify Playpen’s users with government-created malware. Users unknowingly downloaded the malware, which searched their computers for identifying information then returned it to the FBI. An EDVA magistrate issued a single warrant for all computers that used Playpen, even though most were outside EDVA jurisdiction. After the FBI identified user Gabriel Werdene (defendant) in Pennsylvania, a magistrate in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (EDPA) issued a separate warrant to search Werdene’s home, and the FBI seized digital evidence. Werdene was charged with possessing child pornography in the EDPA and moved to suppress the evidence on the ground that the EDVA lacked jurisdiction to issue the original warrant. After the trial court refused to suppress, Werdene pleaded guilty but reserved his right to appeal the suppression ruling.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Greenaway, Jr., J.)

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