U.S. v. Patton (USA)

robert-paul-patton-2014

Robert Paul Patton, the 44-year-old publisher of LGBTQ blog FabulousPDX.com, was sentenced to two years in prison in 2013 after pleading no contest to the attempted first-degree sexual abuse of a 12-year-old boy.

From the court case affirming his conviction:

The affidavit states MG told Detective Andler that he and DG were at Patton’s house during the summer of 2011, and they dressed up as women. According to MG, DG asked if they could spend the night there and they did, with DG and Patton staying alone in Patton’s bedroom.
Patton notes the affidavit failed to explain that DG, MG, Jonny, and Angelica dressed in women’s clothes at Patton’s house that night because they planned to go to the Escape nightclub dressed in drag and decided to use Patton’s house as a place to get ready. Patton dropped them off at the club. Patton contends the omission of this information allows the inaccurate inference that Patton encouraged them to dress that way and that they stayed at his house the entire evening.

The government contends the affidavit does not invite the inferences Patton suggests, but only recounts statements DG, MG, Jonny, and Angelica made about dressing in drag. The government suggests the important fact is that DG spent the night with Patton, in his bed, where Patton sexually abused DG.

I agree with the government. The reason the group dressed  in women’s clothing and the fact that the group spent part of the evening at the nightclub are not material to the probable cause determination. The material fact is that DG and Patton spent the night alone in Patton’s bedroom. Omitting the other information was not an error.

***

Detective Goodwin states in the affidavit she learned from reading the CARES NW interview report that on October 17, 2011, DG told Dr. Lippert that Patton took pictures of DG while DG was asleep and DG had recently learned Patton was a pornographer. DG said he was clothed when he posed for Patton but he was concerned “there might be picture [sic] of him that other people were viewing on the intranet [sic].” 

Patton argues DG did not visit CARES NW until October 26, nine days later than reported by Detective Goodwin, and did not make the statements until November 22, 2011, during his third CARES NW visit. In conjunction with the affidavit’s statement that Detective Andler did not learn Patton’s criminal history until October 26, Patton argues the incorrect date of DG’s statements at CARES NW falsely informs the magistrate DG became aware on his own that Patton was a pornographer and offered the information to the CARES NW examiner without prompting. Patton contends the correct date indicates Detective Andler or another investigator informed DG of Patton’s prior criminal history and directed the CARES NW examiner to question DG about pornography. Patton notes DG stated several times that Patton only took pictures of him and his friends dressed in women’s clothing. Patton suggests DG did not become concerned about any other photographs until Detective Andler informed him of Patton’s criminal history and questioned him about any photographs without clothing. Patton claims there are no facts suggesting another source from which DG could have learned about Patton’s criminal history.

***

Patton argues the warrant was overbroad in authorizing the search and seizure of digital cameras or photographs of DG because those items lacked the required nexus to the underlying facts. The affidavit states that a photograph of DG, MG, Jonny, and Angelica standing in a kitchen while dressed in women’s clothing was found on MG’s phone. The group had dressed up at Patton’s home before going to a nightclub. Patton contends the only inference based on this evidence is that MG asked Patton to take a photograph of the group on MG’s cell phone.

I disagree because there are other ways for a photograph to get on a cell phone. For example, Patton could have taken the picture with his own cell phone and texted it to MG’s cell phone. Likewise, the photograph could have been taken with MG’s cell phone and sent to Patton’s cell phone or emailed and stored on his computer. Finding the photograph on any digital device owned by Patton would be evidence of a relationship between Patton and DG. Probable cause existed to look for the photograph, and any others of DG, on any digital devices owned by Patton.

The affidavit states DG reported to a CARES NW interviewer that Patton took pictures of him while DG was asleep and DG posed for Patton to take pictures with DG clothed. Patton contends this is not evidence he took photographs of DG, but rather that DG was concerned something happened that he was unaware of until after he learned from Detective Andler that Patton was a pornographer.

The government notes there is no evidence DG ever said he learned from Detective Andler that Patton was a pornographer and, similarly, no evidence the photos on MG’s phone were the only photos Patton took. According to the government, photos of DG taken by Patton would be important evidence of the crimes of sexual abuse and sodomy, even if the photos are innocent, because they establish a connection between Patton and DG, they corroborate the statements of DG and the other witnesses, and if photos of DG sleeping were seized, they establish he spent the night with Patton.

Patton’s argument is not a fair interpretation of what DG said. Additionally, DG could have learned from MG, Angelica, or Jonny of any photographs Patton took while DG was asleep because the group spent the night together at Patton’s house.

In summary, the warrant was not overbroad in authorizing the search and seizure of digital cameras or photographs.

Fabulous PDX Publisher Rob Patton Sentenced in Child Sex Abuse Case – Proud Queer (PQ Monthly – Daily Online).

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