Child porn case dismissed

January 6, 2014

By Ari Cetron

New: Jan. 6, 2:11 p.m.

A court case claiming a former Sammamish resident was in possession of child pornography has been dismissed.

Joseph Padgett was charged in January 2011 with first-degree possession of child pornography in connection with five computers, four external hard drives and a USB thumb drive containing hundreds of images of child pornography, according to charging documents filed in King County Superior Court at the time.

Padgett’s estranged wife said she had discovered the computers, according to the documents. She turned the material over to King County Sheriff’s Office detectives in November 2010.

The estranged wife said she did not see any of the images of child pornography. She found some images that, while disturbing, were not illegal, and some computers and electronic storage devices that were fingerprint-protected.

She was informed by legal counsel that the images she could see would not be sufficient for police to obtain a search warrant to break the protections on the other storage devices.

After other developments, police were able to obtain a warrant.

Law enforcement analysis of the computers turned up the child pornography. However, that evidence was suppressed. A court order filed in November 2013 said the search warrant used to review the evidence was too vague. The order cited previous case law.

“It has been crystal clear in the State of Washington since 1992 that the term ‘child pornography’ is unconstitutionally vague and will not support a search warrant,” read the court ruling signed by Judge Jim Rogers.

Last month, Rogers signed another order recognizing that the practical effect of suppressing the evidence was to terminate the case, and the case against Padgett was dismissed without prejudice.

The prosecutor has filed a notice of appeal of the decision, said Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County Prosecutor’s Office. No dates have been set.

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