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United States v. LittleDale

July 13, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly United States District Judge


Daniel Littledale is charged with distribution, receipt, and possession of child pornography. When questioned by law enforcement agents, Littledale confessed to that he had sent and received child pornography. Littledale has moved to suppress his confession. For the following reasons, the Court denies Littledale's motion.


The Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on Littledale's motion on June 11-12, 2009 and finds the facts as follows.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents obtained a search warrant for a residence located at a particular address in Hanover Park, Illinois, based upon a showing of probable cause that an individual using the screen name "neodmoney" and using a computer located at that address had been sending and receiving online child pornography and claimed to be molesting his nine-year-old niece. The agents' initial investigation suggested that "neodmoney" likely was an individual by the name of Richard Ahrens who resided at the Hanover Park address (this turned out to be incorrect). The warrant application stated that Ahrens was living at the home along with Cynthia Littledale, who was identified in the application as the subscriber of the Internet Protocol address that "neodmoney" was using. The application also identified Ahrens' brother, Dale Ahrens, as having been seen at the home. The warrant application did not mention Daniel Littledale at all.

ICE special agent Jennifer Sapper led a team of agents who executed the search warrant at approximately 9:00 a.m. on March 9, 2007. Before going to the residence, the agents believed that Richard Ahrens was the target of their investigation. Agent Sapper testified credibly that before executing the warrant, law enforcement had conducted a query that indicated that Daniel Littledale was living at the home but that the investigators did not consider him to be a target of the investigation.

Upon arrival at the residence, ICE agents found only Richard Ahrens to be present. Agent Sapper identified herself to Ahrens, informed him that ICE agents were there to execute a federal search warrant for child pornography, and gave Ahrens Miranda warnings. Following the entry into the Hanover Park home, ICE agents attempted to locate and make contact with both Cynthia Littledale and Dale Ahrens, hoping to question them and Richard Ahrens simultaneously. Agent Sapper stayed with Richard Ahrens at the home and questioned him for about an hour and a half.

Via their search, the agents learned that there were two computers at the home, one in a bedroom that they learned belonged to Daniel Littledale (Cynthia's son), and one in a guest room. Around 10:30 a.m., agent Sapper directed agents Demetrius Flowers and Tim Morris to locate and interview Littledale, who the agents had learned was attending classes at College of DuPage. Agent Sapper testified that it is standard operating procedure in an investigation involving the transmission of child pornography via computer to interview all persons with access to the subject computer. That said, once the agents learned that one of the two computers in the home was in Daniel Littledale's room, agent Sapper had reason to suspect his involvement in illegal activity. The Court also notes that it appears that at the detention hearing in this case, Sapper testified that when told why the agents were at the home, Richard Ahrens suggested that they should be looking at Daniel Littledale. In addition, Sapper testified at the hearing before this Court that around 11:30 a.m., during the continuation of his interview at the Hanover Park police department, Ahrens advised the interviewing agents that he was computer illiterate and that Daniel Littledale had set up the computers at the home.

Agents Flowers and Morris called College of DuPage and spoke with campus police. They advised the campus police that they were working on a child pornography investigation and that they needed to speak with Daniel Littledale, a student at the school, about his involvement. Officer Rick Spiers testified that the agents advised that Littledale was a possible suspect in the investigation. Agents Flowers and Morris traveled to the college to interview Littledale. Prior to their arrival at the college, campus police ascertained what class Littledale was attending.

After the agents arrived at the college, they met with officer Spiers. Two campus police officers accompanied the agents to Littledale's classroom, which was in an adjoining building connected to the building that housed the office of the campus police. Both the agents and the officers were armed and in uniform. The officers were clothed in their standard campus police uniforms; the agents wore jeans and ICE t-shirts.

One of the campus police officers entered the classroom and advised the professor that he (the officer) needed to see Littledale. The professor indicated to Littledale to leave the classroom. Littledale retrieved his belongings and followed the campus police officer into the hallway, where the other officer and the two ICE agents were waiting. The campus police officer told Littledale that the agents would like to speak with him. The agents identified themselves to Littledale and displayed their credentials, and they informed him that they needed to speak to him. Littledale agreed. Agent Flowers said that he did not want to speak with Littledale in the hallway and asked if Littledale would accompany them to the campus police office. Littledale again agreed. The agents and officers did not touch, handcuff, or physically restrain Littledale, nor did they raise their voices or display their weapons. They did not advise Littledale that he was free to leave, but they did not tell him that he was under arrest and did not tell him that he was required to accompany them. Littledale did not ask if he could leave and did not attempt to leave either before or after arriving at the campus police office.

As indicated earlier, the classroom where the agents located Littledale and the campus police office were housed in adjacent but connected buildings. The two ICE agents and the two campus police officers walked with Littledale to the campus police office. Officer Spiers testified that Littledale was "escorted" to the police office. The walk to the police office took about five minutes.

Entry to the police office is security-controlled. Approximately two to five officers are present in the office at any given point in time; typically, all of them are armed. The office has the appearance of a police station.

Though Littledale was carrying a backpack, no one searched it or Littledale before or after he entered the campus police office. Upon arrival, one of the officers directed Littledale and the agents to an office. The office contained a desk and chairs and personal items; it was not a room dedicated to interviewing witnesses or suspects. Littledale and the two agents entered the ...

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