Attorneys for convicted pedophile Earl Bradley, say the former pediatrician's conviction should be overturned because police improperly searched Bradley's Lewes offices.
In an opening brief before the Delaware Supreme Court, Bradley's defense argues Delaware State Police exceeded the limits of their authority during their Dec. 15, 2009 search, when they seized evidence at Bradley's BayBees Pediatrics office.
Attorneys also argued the search warrant for Bradley’s offices failed to provide facts supporting a search for items outside the main office building.
Public defenders Robert Goff and Dean Johnson served on the defense team during Bradley’s June 23 trial. Goff, supervisor of the New Castle County Superior Court team, and Nicole Walker, of the office’s appeals unit, are handling the appeal.
Police exceeded authority
Bradley argues Delaware State Police officers were authorized to search Bradley’s office for eight patient files. The files police were seeking belonged to children whose parents had come forward alleging that Bradley had abused their children. State police had previously attempted to get a warrant to search Bradley’s offices in 2008 for evidence of child pornography, but a judge had denied their request.
When police searched the BayBees offices, they took not only patient files, but computer files as well, asserting Bradley could have kept medical records on the computer. When police opened a video file on a thumb drive taken from one of Bradley’s computers, it showed evidence of Bradley sexually assaulting a child. After police saw this evidence, they obtained a second warrant to search for evidence of child pornography.
In its brief, the defense said the original warrant allowed police to search for nothing more than the eight patient files.
“The warrant did not allow them to search for anything more. It did not authorize law enforcement to look for surveillance videos of children entering or leaving the buildings. It did not seek proof that Bradley innocently or otherwise had manipulated pictures of patients for the amusement of himself or others. It did not allow for a search for child pornography or any depictions of Bradley committing sexual crimes against his patients,” the brief said.
The defense says the method in which the search was conducted shows that the Dec. 15 warrant was nothing more than a pretext to search for child pornography. As evidence, they say police did not even question two employees of Bradley’s offices as to where and how Bradley kept computerized patient files.
In addition, the defense argues, the presence of the Internet Crimes Against Children unit indicates police were not just searching for patient files, since one of the unit’s areas of expertise is a general search of equipment and media for child pornography.
Bradley’s attorneys are also arguing that police seized items from buildings they were not authorized to search. At the time, the BayBees property consisted of four buildings: the main office, a white outbuilding painted in a checkerboard pattern, a second white outbuilding behind the main office and a tan shed between the main office and the checkerboard building.
Detective Thomas Elliott testified that before getting the search warrant, he had driven past the BayBees offices and noticed only the main office and the checkerboard building; the warrant authorized police to search those two buildings.
“When Elliott was confronted with three outbuildings with starkly different descriptions, he no longer could ‘with reasonable effort ascertain and identify the place’ for which the warrant authorized a search,” the defense brief said. “However, despite his uncertainty and ‘for reasons that are unexplained and clearly unjustified, the officers decided not to wait for the arrival of their legal counsel and simply proceeded to search the premises on their belief that the warrant covered all four buildings.”
“Police did not believe that they were bound by the language of the warrant and did not care what their lawyer would advise,” the brief said.
Search warrant flawed
The defense also is arguing that the search warrant itself is flawed, because it did not provide probable cause to search a white outbuilding or a reason to search computers for patient files.
“There are no facts in the warrant to support the notion that Bradley kept his patients’ medical files in a computer format,” the brief said.
Although state police had interviewed employees, co-practitioners and an office manager, none of them had anything to say about how Bradley stored his patient files.
“It is irrational to believe that a doctor would store patient files in a manner so as to hide them from himself and his staff,” the brief said. “The warrant cites nothing which would show that Bradley kept depictions of his alleged crimes in patient files.”
Finally, the defense says the warrant fails to provide the relevance of the patient files. It never explicitly says how the files would be relevant to the police investigation.
“The warrant application contained episodic descriptions, unsupported insinuations and innuendo but did not provide any relevant facts to support a search for patient medical files,” the brief said.
The state’s answering brief is due Wednesday, April 4.
Jason Miller, spokesman for the Department of Justice, said the Attorney General’s Office does not comment on pending litigation beyond its pleadings to the court.
Bradley is currently serving 14 life sentences and 164 years in prison following his conviction on 24 counts of rape, assault and child sexual exploitation involving more than 80 patients.