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Judge could suppress evidence in child porn case

Hearings to be held Feb. 14 in accused ex-deputy’s case

POSTED: February 8, 2012 10:59 p.m.

A federal judge is expected to decide next week on whether to allow evidence seized in the case against a former White County deputy accused of producing child pornography.

Christopher Thomas Davis, 32, of Dahlonega, pleaded not guilty in early October to counts of production and possession of child porn.

In November, Davis' attorney Tony Axam filed a motion to suppress evidence seized from his client's vehicle and home during the execution of a search warrant by federal agents in August. Axam claimed the government did not have probable cause to enter the home and seize several computer and storage devices containing child porn.

A camera also was seized, which the prosecution alleges was used to produce child pornography, specifically that of a 7-year-old girl.

The government countered the defense's claim, saying agents acted on probable cause.

On Tuesday, Axam filed a reply to the government's claim that agents acted on substantial knowledge of Davis' involvement in producing child porn.

Axam wrote in the reply that agents conducted the search based on hearsay from Davis' ex-wife, "an unproven informant whose reliability was questionable given the fact that she was being interrogated for child pornography crimes that had occurred in her home and to which she was a potential suspect."

Investigators from the Child Exploitation Investigations Group tracked Davis after arresting Timothy
McKeithan of Houston, Texas, on charges of possession of child pornography.

McKeithan's girlfriend, Lisa Davis, ex-wife of Christopher Davis, told investigators the images of a 7-year-old girl found on McKeithan's storage devices were produced by Christopher Davis.

Lisa Davis told investigators that after leaving Christopher Davis in the fall of 2009, she took his hard drive containing photos of her and asked McKeithan to delete those images. She then mailed the hard drive back to Christopher Davis.

"...Lisa Davis has direct knowledge of all the pertinent facts that evidence the offense conduct and connect that conduct to the defendant and his home," prosecutors wrote in a response.

Axam also claimed in the response that the government failed to link Davis to the child pornography discovered at McKeithan's residence.

"The government continuously fails to explain the lack of evidence and corroboration that Davis had actually engaged in any criminal activity," Axam said.

Even if the court determines agents lacked probable cause to search Davis' residence, the government argues the good faith exception would still allow the evidence seized to be allowed into evidence.

The statute is an exception to the exclusionary rule that allows seized evidence to be used if officers had reasonable, good faith belief that they acted according to legal authority, such as relying on a search warrant later found to be inadequate.

A suppression hearing, as well as an evidentiary hearing, is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 14 in Magistrate Judge Susan S. Cole's courtroom in U.S. District Court in Gainesville.

A ruling in favor of the defense to suppress evidence could place the prosecution's case at risk of being thrown out.
Axam said he is hopeful the court will suppress the evidence and that the case against Davis will ultimately be closed.

"I think that the rights of Christopher Davis were not constitutionally protected when (agents) both interviewed him and they went in and searched his house," Axam said.



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