State Supreme Court affirms Bradley conviction

Justices find police search legal, appeal without merit
The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of Lewes pediatrician Earl Bradley saying his appeal was without merit. BY FILE
September 6, 2012

A little over a year after he was sentenced to 14 life sentences and 164 years in prison, convicted pedophile Earl Bradley’s attempt to overturn his guilty verdict has been denied.

In a 22-page decision, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Bradley’s conviction, finding the former Lewes pediatrician’s appeal without merit.

The justices said Delaware State Police acted within the bounds of the warrant used to search Bradley’s BayBees Pediatrics office.

In a statement, Attorney General Joseph “Beau” Biden III said, ““Earl Bradley will never walk out of prison.  We are gratified by the clarity of the court’s thoughtful and well-crafted decision and the finality that it brings to the legal process.  Our job – to take care of the victims and their families as they heal from these unspeakable crimes – will never end.”

Bradley’s attorney, Robert Goff of the Public Defender’s Office, did not respond to a request for comment.

Bradley’s defense argued Bradley was a victim of an illegal search. The defense attempted to suppress video evidence of Bradley sexually assaulting a patient, saying the video was obtained illegally.

The warrant authorized police to search Bradley’s medical office and the white, checkerboard-painted outbuilding Bradley used as a personal office for medical files relating to eight patients. It was in the checkerboard building that police found incriminating video on a computer thumb drive still plugged into Bradley’s computer.

Bradley’s defense argued the warrant was defective because the affidavit in support of the warrant did not establish probable cause that patient medical files would be found in the checkerboard building, so police exceeded the scope of the warrant by searching the building.

On the first point, the five justices – Chief Justice Myron Steele, Justice Henry duPont Ridgely, Justice Carolyn Berger, Justice Jack Jacobs and Chancellor Leo Strine, sitting in for the recused Justice Randy Holland – said the judge issuing the warrant had sufficient facts to make a determination that evidence of a crime could be found in Bradley’s medical files and that medical files could be found in the checkerboard building.

The warrant listed the place to be searched as “18259 Coastal Highway, to include a white outbuilding, located on the property.”

“Thus the warrant did not expressly limit the search to any particular building on the property,” Ridgely said.

Continuing, he said the affidavit in support of the warrant specifically indicated that Bradley had installed cameras that enabled him to work with images of patients in his personal office. Thus, Ridgely said, central to the search authorized by the warrant was an examination of Bradley’s own workspace for files, including video and computer files.

“Put in plain terms, the warrant clearly authorized the search of the doctor’s office and thus building B (the checkerboard building),” Ridgely said.

The justices said the police properly searched the checkerboard building, and when they encountered evidence of crimes outside the warrant’s scope, they immediately stopped and sought a second search warrant.

An affidavit used to obtain a search warrant, Ridgely said, cites statements from former BayBees employees saying Bradley had cameras throughout the office and took pictures of patients that he manipulated on his computer. The first thing police found when entering Bradley’s office was a video camera on an exam room table. In the process of searching the office, police found cameras all over the place, Ridgely wrote.

“It is common sense to infer that in the year 2009 a medical practice would keep at least some patient records in electronic format. Digital pictures and videos could also corroborate whether a child was treated at Bradley’s office around the time that the alleged crimes occurred,” Ridgely said.

Ridgely said police had a valid reason to search the checkerboard building because witnesses reported Bradley carrying a patient into the building, so it was reasonable for police to infer the building could be used for medical exams.

“This is an important day for the survivors of this tragedy,” Biden said. “My thoughts are first and foremost with the children and their families. My hope and prayer is this is an important step on a path to healing.”

Bradley was convicted of 24 counts of rape, assault and child exploitation involving 86 of his child patients. He is serving 14 life sentences and 164 years in prison at James T. Vaughn Correctional Institute in Smyrna.

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