AM 760 KFMB - Talk Radio Station - San Diego, CA - Did an FBI Informant Violate the 4th Amendment?

Did an FBI Informant Violate the 4th Amendment?

Updated: May 23, 2016 7:23 AM

We have law and order in this great country of ours. Is it followed by the word every single day? No, not at all, but we like to think that if we have law and order, then justice will be achieved.

An employee at Best Buy’s nationwide computer repair center served as a paid FBI informant who for years tipped off agents to illicit material found on customers’ hard drives, according to the lawyer for a Newport Beach doctor facing child pornography charges as a result of information from the employee.

Federal authorities deny they directed the man to actively look for illegal activity. But the attorney alleges the FBI essentially used the employee to perform warrantless searches on electronics that passed through the massive maintenance facility outside Louisville, Ky., where technicians known as Geek Squad agents work on devices from across the country. (L.A. Times)

Right out of the gate, I want to unequivocally voice that production, transferring or possession of child pornography is a wretched sort of evil. Anyone who’s associated with that act/crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent the law will allow. It is a depravity that knows no equal.

Dr. Mark Albert Rettenmaier is a gynecological oncologist and was indicted in November 2014 on the aforementioned child pornography charges. This case doesn’t begin here, though.

He brought his laptop to a Best Buy for repairs in November 2011. The computer was shipped to the Louisville maintenance facility. In January 2012, the FBI’s informant, known as Justin Meade, posed as a Geek Squad representative and found what he thought was something suspicious on Rettenmaier’s laptop.

Meade showed an FBI agent photos on Rettenmaier’s hard drive, and the agent recognized them as child pornography, according to court records. The Geek Squad had to use specialized technical tools to recover the photos because they were either damaged or had been deleted, according to court papers.

(Rettenmaier’s attorney) James Riddet contends it is impossible to tell when the files were placed on the hard drive or who accessed them. Based on the discovery of the photos, the FBI obtained a search warrant for Rettenmaier’s Laguna Hills home, which it raided in February 2012, court documents state.

During the search, Rettenmaier returned home and investigators seized the iPhone he had with him, according to prosecutors. The U.S. attorney’s office in Orange County indicted Rettenmaier on allegations of possessing child pornography on a laptop, multiple hard drives and the iPhone. Prosecutors allege the phone alone held more than 800 pictures of naked or partially nude girls.”

I value the hard work that the Federal Bureau of Investigation does on a daily basis. With a great leader, in my opinion, in James Comey, he’s trying to protect this country from the scum of the earth as well as potential terrorist threats, among others.

I understand why the bureau needs informants. They want someone undercover to try and find something to prove their case in a court of law.

Isn’t the idea of the Federal Bureau of Investigation following the law a bit farfetched? You would think they’d do everything they could to not commit an unreasonable search and seizure, according the 4th Amendment of our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. I’m not that naive to think all cases are by the book.

Isn’t it also a little weird that the feds deny that Meade was ordered to look for illegal activity or illegal files on Rettenmaier’s laptop, yet he’s been reportedly paid $500 for snooping around his hard drive?

Also, who’s to say that Meade didn’t manufacture pictures himself to put onto Rettenmaier’s computer only to frame him? Do the two of them have a history of some sort? We don’t know.

One thing is for certain. Whether the employee at the Louisville facility was really an FBI informant in disguise or not, Geek Squad and Best Buy (along with other repair-type companies) have policies for situations just like this.

It is ugly and nobody wants to come across such revolting material like that. Reporting it to the authorities was the right thing to do.

Where do you draw the line, though? Many argue the fact that Rettenmaier’s 4th Amendment right was violated in the search and seizure of his laptop at the Louisville facility.

A great counter-point is when someone like Rettenmaier or anyone else that signs over their computers for repairs (or any other product, for that matter), they give their consent to search through the laptop to find whatever the problem may be.

The fact that Riddet is calling for an “illegal search” in court proceedings is a violation of the law. It’s a fair argument. One could argue that such a generic claim could make the guy seem even more guilty than he’s thought to be. However, the lawyer has to think of every available defense for his client, whether he may think he’s guilty or not.

That being said, while most sensible people understand the severity of child pornography, we cannot assume the guilt of the (potentially) innocent unless we hear and see all the evidence presented in a court of law.

Does this “search and seizure” of Rettenmaier’s laptop constitute, in any way, shape or form, a mishandling of evidence in an ongoing investigation? I’m not vouching for Rettenmaier one iota, and it’s not as open-and-shut a case as one may think it is.

However, wouldn’t such actions present a chance for a judge to exonerate Rettenmaier of the charges on which he’s been indicted for nearly two years?

It’s sick to even think about the idea, but if we live in a society where so many, if not the majority, want the law followed by its peers as well as its authorities, then this could lead to Rettenmaier being completely free, as disgusting as that may feel should you think he’s guilty from the get-go.

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