Ex-camp aide’s lawyer looks to suppress phone contents
The attorney for a former West Bloomfield camp counselor facing child pornography charges has filed a motion to suppress contents of the man’s cellphone, in the latest of a series of motions in a roller-coaster case involving nude photographs of prepubescent boys.
In the motion filed Tuesday, attorney Walter Piszczatowski argued the Apple iPhone was seized due to a search warrant lacking probable cause when his client, Matthew Kuppe, was arrested Aug. 12 at his home in West Bloomfield Township. The attorney petitioned the court to suppress from evidence the phone itself plus any contents stored on the device.
The motion does not detail what authorities found on the iPhone, but earlier reports allege that Kuppe used his cellphone on Aug. 5 to take nine sexually explicit photos of a 5-year-old boy. That night, he allegedly uploaded the photos to a Russian website, prosecutors said.
Kuppe also is accused of filming boys in a locker room at the Jewish Community Center during his employment as a camp counselor.
According to the newest motion, the search warrant “failed to establish a factual basis to believe that the iPhone was used in any criminal activity or that is would contain evidence of criminal activity, or that Kuppe even owned a phone.”
Kuppe was targeted after he allegedly chatted online with an undercover officer on a public photo-sharing website. The suspect is accused of discussing images of young, naked boys under the username “firstname.lastname@example.org,” according to the court filing. Kuppe and the undercover officer then spoke about sexual desires and fantasies involving the young boys.
As a result of the online conversation, investigators tracked the chat’s IP address to Kuppe’s home, his attorney said in the filing. A West Bloomfield Township Detective checked Kuppe’s Facebook page and discovered the man’s link to the Jewish Community Center; later, he matched background and tile at the center with features in the sexual explicit photographs.
Two search warrants were authorized on Kuppe’s home: one allowing a search of the home and seizure of various items including computers and “all cell phones,” and a second warrant specifically addressing the seizure of an Apple iPhone.
Kuppe’s attorney in the filing argued there was no explanation for agents securing a second, more specific warrant. The attorney also repeatedly argued authorities never established Kuppe owned an iPhone or such iPhone would contain criminal material.
The Tuesday filing followed a string of motions in the case. Two April hearing dates previously were set to discuss the prior motions involving the suspect’s statement to police and other evidence.
Kuppe alleges he did not knowingly waive his Miranda rights when he was interrogated by the FBI for nearly two hours outside his home on the night of his arrest.
His attorney, Piszczatowski, has said that in a recording of the interview with an FBI agent, Kuppe is heard saying, “I want, I think I want a lawyer then.” According to Piszczatowski, “the request was ignored as if the words were never spoken. The interrogation then proceeded for another hour and a half.”
Piszczatowski also is attempting to suppress evidence from Kuppe’s email accounts and from AOL and Google, claiming the search was improper.
In addition, the suspect and his attorney have argued for four of six counts to be dismissed, alleging the images central to the case do not constitute “sexually explicit conduct” under the law and don’t support the charges.
In November, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn released Kuppe on bond with several conditions, including wearing a GPS tether and staying with his parents.
Kuppe faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges, which include production and distribution of child pornography.
Staff Writer Jennifer Chambers contributed.