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United States v. Harney

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 14, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Jeffrey W. Harney, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: August 6, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky at Covington. No. 2:16-cr-00038-1-David L. Bunning, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Steven D. Jaeger, THE JAEGER FIRM PLLC, Erlanger, Kentucky, for Appellant.

          James T. Chapman, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Lexington, Kentucky, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Steven D. Jaeger, THE JAEGER FIRM PLLC, Erlanger, Kentucky, for Appellant.

          James T. Chapman, Charles P. Wisdom, Jr., UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Lexington, Kentucky, for Appellee.

          Before: SUTTON, GRIFFIN, and READLER, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          SUTTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         This case presents the latest installment in the government's investigation of a child pornography website called Playpen. As part of a nationwide investigation into this website and as part of the nationwide search warrant that went with it, the government searched Jeffrey Harney's computer and found illicit images. Harney moved to suppress the evidence and asked the district court to require the United States to turn over all of the background information related to its search. The district court denied both motions. Harney pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography but reserved the right to appeal the denial of his suppression and discovery motions. We affirm.

         I.

         In 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation gained control over Playpen, a large child pornography website. Agents moved a controlled server containing a copy of the website to a government building in Virginia and continued operating the site in hopes of nabbing its users. The nature of the site complicated the government's efforts. It uses "The Onion Router," known to insiders as Tor, which conceals users' internet protocol addresses and other identifying information.

         Through a 33-page affidavit, the government sought a warrant that would identify the individuals veiled behind the usernames. The proposed warrant, the affidavit explained, would authorize additional instructions to the content that a computer automatically downloaded when visiting the site. The added instructions would cause the user's computer to send back seven specific pieces of information about the computer, including the actual IP address. A magistrate judge in the Eastern District of Virginia ...


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