Eastern District of Wisconsin Refuses Request to Return Forfeited Computer in Child Pornography Case

By Reddin & Singer

Laptop and CD

In United States v. Wentzel, a man was charged with producing child pornography in Wisconsin. The man later entered into a plea agreement that required him to forfeit all of the items used to facilitate his crime. As part of this forfeiture, the man released his rights in a laptop computer, external hard drive, digital camera, and other electronics. Next, the man was sentenced to serve 40 years in prison.

About two years later, the convicted man filed a motion to return the personal photographs and videos that were stored on the laptop to him under Federal Rule 41(g). The man also sought the return of similar files and an address book included on his mobile telephone SIM card. The United States responded to the convicted man’s motion by stating the items were destroyed or returned to his now estranged spouse.

The man next claimed that he did not authorize the release of his forfeited items to his former spouse, and he requested proof that his laptop was destroyed. The convicted man also sought a copy of the personal photos and videos that were included on a mirror image that the authorities had made of his hard drive. The government provided the court with documentation of the laptop’s destruction and replied that the mirror image was destroyed as a matter of policy when the case was closed.

According to the Eastern District of Wisconsin, a Rule 41(g) motion may be brought as a secondary proceeding in connection with a criminal case. Despite this, the court said Rule 41(g) may not be used to challenge a forfeiture after it has been completed. In addition, the court stated the fact that the government no longer possesses the property at issue requires the denial of the man’s Rule 41(g) motion.

The federal court stated it was unable to order the return of property that was previously forfeited and destroyed. Pursuant to relevant case law, a forfeiture in a criminal case must be challenged through a direct appeal as part of a defendant’s sentence. The Wisconsin court said a Rule 41(g) motion may not be utilized in such circumstances. Finally, the Eastern District of Wisconsin denied the convicted man’s motion seeking the return of his previously forfeited property.

If you were charged with possession of child pornography in Milwaukee, you should discuss your rights with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. To speak with an experienced Wisconsin criminal lawyer today, do not hesitate to contact the law offices of Reddin & Singer, LLP through our website at www.reddinandsinger.com or give us a call at (414) 271-6400.

Additional Resources

United States v. Wentzel, Dist. Court, ED Wisconsin 2015

Photo Credit: ctrlt, MorgueFile