The first shot in the battle to suppress video evidence allegedly showing Lewes pediatrician Dr. Earl Bradley sexually assaulting children has been fired.
Bradley’s defense team has filed its opening brief in its motion to suppress and says the Delaware State Police went beyond the parameters of a warrant to search Bradley’s offices.
Suspects break into Bradley offices
Delaware State Police have charged two men in connection with a burglary attempt at the former offices of accused pedophile Dr. Earl Bradley.
According to the police, a silver vehicle was noticed parked in the rear of Bradley’s old BayBees Pediatrics office on Route 1 in Lewes. Police were called to the scene after a citizen noticed suspicious activity, including the sound of something breaking and seeing two people traveling back and forth between their vehicle and the office.
Police arrested Garrett Coco, 22, of Harbeson and Justin Oberholtzer, 24, of Lewes, at the scene. Oberholtzer and Coco entered one of the buildings on the property by removing a screen from a window.
The back door to the main office had muddy shoe prints on it that police say came from when Oberholtzer and Coco kicked it in.
Police said a search of the vehicle produced two TV monitors, a stoplight, power tools, two heaters, an air nailer and a portable air conditioner. The property was worth approximately $2,000.
Police charged Oberholtzer and Coco with burglary. The two men are incarcerated at Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown in lieu of $2,500 secured bond.
The defense – Dean Johnson, Stephanie Tsantes and Robert Goff of the state Public Defender’s Office – moved to suppress video evidence purportedly showing Bradley sexually assaulting young children at his BayBees Pediatrics office.
Bradley’s defense team argued, at a two-day hearing Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, that the warrant states police were to search only for medical records of eight children suspected of being abused by Bradley. In addition, the defense says, police were authorized to search only Bradley’s main office and a white outbuilding on the property. The BayBees facility included two other buildings. At the hearing, Det. Thomas Elliott said the main office and the white-and-black-painted checkerboard building were all that was visible from the road. He said police did not go on the property prior to the search warrant being executed.
While the warrant specifies “computer files” to be searched, the defense said the warrant does not include searching for child pornography.
“It is patently clear that on Dec. 16, 2009, the police were searching for pornography. Their inconsistent and illogical testimony at the suppression hearing clearly shows them scrambling desperately for a rationale that will uphold the warrant as well as the search they conducted under its auspices,” the brief said.
The defense states computer evidence seized by police was “the fruit of an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the state and federal constitutions.”
In its primary argument, the defense says the warrant was devoid of any facts to support a reason to believe Bradley hid any of his patient files or stored any of his patient files on a computer. In addition, the brief says the warrant disclosed no reason to search the “checkerboard” building and no facts stated in the warrant support the notion Bradley kept patient files there.
Bradley’s defense says the search warrant does not explicitly say how Bradley’s patient files would prove that he had committed any crimes.
“It cites a ‘pattern’ of complaints of inappropriate examinations and conduct toward female child patients. It repeats the irrelevant fact that Bradley had security cameras on premises. It recites meaninglessly that Bradley has been observed manipulating digital photographs of patients,” the brief said. “These conclusions are unsupported by any facts, and Elliott never discloses in the warrant the nature of the corroboration for which he is searching.”
The defense says the law does not permit the issuing judge to guess what an officer’s reasons are for seizing items in a search warrant; those reasons must be in the warrant itself.
In closing, the brief reiterates the defense request to have the video evidence suppressed as the result of an unlawful seizure.
“The police conducted the search they wanted to conduct, not the one a judge had authorized,” the brief concludes.
“Their scanty investigation of the premises combined with their hasty and ill-advised decision made at the scene to ignore the warrant they had in hand so that they could rummage through every building and every computer on Dec. 16, 2009, inexcusably deprived Bradley of his rights under the Fourth Amendment.”
The next step in the suppression motion is for the Department of Justice to file an answer brief. Once the briefs are in hand, Judge William Carpenter will deliberate on suppressing the video evidence.
Carpenter’s office said there is no timetable for when a decision will be made.
Bradley has been accused of the rape and sexual exploitation of more than 120 children over an 11-year span. He is awaiting a scheduled Feb. 21, 2011 trial at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Institute in Smyrna.