Computer can't be used in case in Kennewick voyeurism trial

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldApril 5, 2013 

A computer taken from the Kennewick home of a child pornography suspect cannot be used at trial because the man and his wife weren't fully informed of their rights during a warrantless search, a judge ruled this week.

Dan R. Dickey, 66, was successful in his motion to get some of the evidence suppressed in his Benton County Superior Court case.

However, Judge Craig Matheson also said that all evidence seized after sheriff's detectives returned to the home with a proper warrant is valid and can remain in the case.

Dickey is charged with voyeurism and second-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Dickey hid a camera in a bathroom inside his own home to take pictures of a girl as she dressed. He then used the nude photos of the girl and other girls "for the purpose of sexual stimulation," court documents allege.

Deputy Terry Bloor said the judge's decision "was mainly good news from my perspective."

"He said the police acted inappropriately concerning Mr. Dickey's logging on to the computer, so he suppressed the video from the computer," Bloor said. "But Mr. Dickey's consent to allow the search of the computer led to the search warrant of other electronic items, and those items were not suppressed."

Sheriff's detectives Larry Smith and Lee Cantu were up front when they stopped by the Dickey home on Nov. 27 about wanting to look for possible videos or photographs of nude children on his personal computer.

But Dickey -- who was president of the Kennewick Police Department Foundation at the time -- testified in an earlier hearing that the detectives failed to advise that they could deny the request.

Dickey said he had walked over to the computer and was clicking on desktop icons when Smith told him to open the recent documents file. After Smith saw a half-inch image of what appeared to be young children under the file name "Nudist family fun," the detective stopped Dickey and said he wanted to do a more thorough search of the computer back at the sheriff's office.

Dickey signed a consent form so the detectives could leave with the home computer, but he wouldn't let Smith take his laptop because that was needed for his work as a real estate agent.

Bloor said Matheson's decision to toss out that computer and anything found on it during the initial check is based on case law.

When police knock on somebody's door, they're supposed to inform the person that they don't have to allow the officers inside the building and can refuse the request, Bloor explained.

Defense attorney John Jensen had argued that home is the most private area a person can have, and suggested that detectives didn't have Dickey sign the consent form at the beginning because they didn't want him to be aware of his rights until they got onto the computer.

Bloor told the Herald he can proceed with the case because the thumb drives and other devices recovered in the later search turned up hundreds of images of nude children under 18. Those included 951 pictures of one girl, along with 251 video files allegedly showing her showering or dressing.

Dickey's trial had been set for April 15. He recently agreed to push the start date to June 10.

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