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United States v. Hilton

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

February 13, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
PAUL WILLIAM HILTON, Defendant/Petitioner.



         I. Introduction

         This is a criminal case. Defendant/Petitioner Paul Hilton (Hilton) plead guilty in front of the undersigned to two counts of conspiracy to produce child pornography. As will be explained, Hilton convinced a 21-year old online girlfriend to sexually assault a two year-old girl, record these actions, and send these recordings to him. Hilton did this while on federal supervised release for prior child pornography convictions. The Court sentenced Hilton to forty years imprisonment followed by a lifetime of supervised release. Hilton appealed, challenging the denial of two different motions to suppress which claimed violations of his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed. United States v. Hilton, No. 14-1571 (6th Cir. Sept. 9, 2015). (Doc. 172) and the Supreme Court denied certiorari. United States v. Hilton, No. 15- 1870 (U.S. Apr. 5, 2016). (Doc. 179).

         Before the Court is Hilton's pro se motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. 191). The government has filed a response (Doc. 199) and Hilton a reply (Doc. 200). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

         II. Background


         The Sixth Circuit described in detail the background facts leading to Hilton's conviction. Likewise, the government's response contains a detailed factual recitation. Both are incorporated by reference. A shorter background section follows:

         A. Hilton's Prior Convictions and His Conduct Before Arrest

         Hilton has two prior convictions for child pornography offenses. Both offenses occurred in the Eastern District of Missouri in 2002. Hilton received concurrent 60-month sentences for those crimes, followed by three years of supervised release. In September 2007, less than two years after his release from prison, Hilton violated the terms of supervised release by failing to complete sex offender treatment and by having unauthorized contact with underage children without the permission of his probation officer. On November 7, 2007, Hilton's term of supervised release was revoked and he was sentenced to six (6) months in prison followed by an additional thirty months of supervised release. A probation officer in Missouri supervised Hilton from February 2009 until the date of Hilton's arrest on the charges in this case.

         During an evidentiary hearing in this case regarding one of Hilton's motions to suppress, the Missouri probation officer explained that he frequently visited Hilton, including unannounced visits, work visits, and “plain view” searches of Hilton's residence. The probation officer talked with Hilton frequently about not using the internet. The probation officer also met with Hilton's treatment providers, local law enforcement officers, Hilton's sister, and even attended some of Hilton's sex offender group therapy sessions. Eventually, the probation officer received a forwarded email written by someone identifying himself as “K[].” K[] first called and then later emailed the Sheriff's Department near Hilton's address. K[] provided a variety of details about Hilton, including that he used a computer with internet access, an internet presence, and had photos of underage girls, all of which were in violation of the terms of his supervised release. Based on follow up corroboration of K[]'s tip, the probation officer obtained a warrant to search Hilton's residence. The search revealed two phones, including a Blackberry Curve, which Hilton admitted to using for child pornography. The officers then obtained a search warrant for the content of the Blackberry. The Blackberry contained evidence of the production, receipt, distribution, and possession of child pornography, as well as the online enticement of several minors.

         In May of 2010, when Hilton was sentenced on the supervised release violations, an investigator with the United States Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Missouri informed FBI agents in Detroit that Hilton may have been involved in the sexual exploitation of a toddler in Detroit. Within the next few days, FBI agents arrested Hilton's co-defendant and apparent on-line girlfriend for sexual exploitation crimes against the child. In November of 2010, agents flew to Oklahoma City to interview Hilton, who was then serving a 10-month prison term for violation of supervised release.

         Based on the information contained on Hilton's Blackberry phone, information provided by his co-defendant, and from other investigations, agents learned that Hilton had convinced his co-defendant to sexually abuse a minor and send photos to Hilton.


         Following his indictment on several counts of sexual exploitation and child pornography offenses, Hilton filed two motions to suppress. Hilton first moved to suppress the evidence obtained during the search of his residence based on a lack of “reasonable suspicion” under the terms of his supervised release. Hilton then moved to suppress the two sets of statements made to law enforcement: one to the Missouri probation officer on the day of his arrest and the other to an FBI a while in Oklahoma City. Hilton also moved to suppress all evidence obtained from the search of his Blackberry phone for a variety ...

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