An attorney for convicted pediatrician Earl Bradley argued before a Delaware Supreme Court panel that key video evidence introduced at trial was illegally obtained.
Bradley is appealing his conviction on charges of rape, assault and sexual abuse of eight pediatric patients.
Key evidence in the case was found in computer files police discovered at Bradley's BayBees Pediatrics property. His attorney argued video evidence recovered from certain computer files should have been suppressed at trial because they were found as the result of an illegal search.
A panel of three justices – Jack Jacobs, Carolyn Berger and Henry duPont Ridgely – heard oral arguments that lasted less than an hour June 13.
Bradley attorney Robert Goff asserted defense claims that the warrant used to search the building was flawed because it failed to specify what constitutes a medical file and how medical records relate to the charges against Bradley. He also said the search exceeded the authority granted by the warrant.
Delaware State Police on Dec. 14, 2009, obtained a warrant to search Bradley’s offices for medical files related to eight children. In an outbuilding on the property, police obtained a computer thumb drive; when the files were opened, police found video evidence Bradley assaulted patients. That led police to seek a second warrant to search for evidence of child pornography.
Goff said the thumb drives were not labeled or accessible to staff, and the file that showed Bradley sexually assaulting a child had been deleted. He argued that if the thumb drives had been medical files, they would have been labeled in order for them to be useful to Bradley’s medical practice.
Goff also argued that the checkerboard building in which the thumb drives were found was not a medical building, so police should have known no medical files would be found there.
In discussion of the checkerboard building, Berger said she was under the impression Bradley used the building as an office. Goff said the building had a desk and a computer but was not a medical office.
Even if the checkerboard building was not a medical building, Jacobs asked, how would police know that before they executed the warrant? He said police had knowledge that Bradley carried children to that building; Jacobs asked why Bradley would do that unless it had something to do with a medical visit.
Regarding the thumb drive found in that building, Jacobs said police could have searched the drive to corroborate dates and times in which the eight children identified in the warrant were at Bradley’s office.
Ridgely used the analogy of a filing cabinet to describe the police search of Bradley’s computer files, saying police had to open the files to know what they contained.
Representing the state was Paul Wallace, chief of appeals for the Attorney General’s Office. Wallace said the computer records were evidence that could confirm the children were at Bradley’s office.
He said the Bradley’s appeals team has tried to paint medical files like those one would find on the television show “Marcus Welby MD,” with files neatly placed in manila folders. In reality, Wallace said, Bradley’s office was more like “Hoarders,” with files scattered all over the place. He said doctors today use photographs as part of their medical files.
Wallace said the thumb drive found in the checkerboard building was found still attached to Bradley’s computer. Since people use thumb drives to store notes, and the checkerboard building was Bradley’s office, it was not unreasonable for police to infer that the drives could be medical files, Wallace said.
He said when police viewed the file containing the video of Bradley assaulting a child, detectives stopped and sought a second warrant, as they should have.
Goff, allowed a brief rebuttal by the justices, said the detective looking at the thumb drive did not have a list of the eight children mentioned in the warrant, so how could he have known what file he was looking for?
Jacobs asked how that was relevant. Goff said the detective should have known the names of the kids in the warrant.
The justices then closed arguments and took the matter under advisement.
Bradley was not present for the arguments, nor did it appear many victims’ families made the trip to Dover. The audience consisted mainly of media, attorneys and their assistants. Attorney General Joseph “Beau” Biden III was present along with the lead prosecutors Paula Ryan and David Hume. Lead defense attorney Dean Johnson of the Public Defender’s Office was also present.
Goff and co-counsel Nicole Walker did not comment on the proceedings. Jason Miller, spokesman for the Department of Justice, said the Attorney General’s Office also declined to comment.
Bradley, convicted of 24 counts of rape, assault and sexual exploitation of a child, is serving 14 life sentences and 164 years in prison at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.