A Dane County, Wisconsin sheriff’s deputy, 43-year-old Deputy Jeffrey C. Hilgers, was able to evade child pornography charges against him after a typographical error was made on a search warrant. The typo on the warrant, which led to the discovery of illegal images of children on Hilgers’ computers, made the contents of the hard drive inadmissible in court.
The illicit images were discovered during an investigation into a relationship between Hilgers and a woman serving time on house arrest. In August, the deputy was charged with sexual assault by correctional staff and seven counts of possessing child pornography.
The complaint says that Hilgers met the woman while she was in jail in 2013, and that they began dating after they met following her placement in an electronic monitoring program.
While looking into the initial allegations, investigators found child pornography on two seized hard drives. They then obtained a search warrant based on the images found, and subsequently discovered even more images of naked children.
However, Dane County Circuit Judge John Markson ruled that an insurmountable error had been made during the early parts investigation: instead of specifying that they were initially seeking evidence of an illicit relationship between Hilgers and the woman with a fashionable ankle bracelet on the initial warrant, investigators accidentally said they were seeking child pornography.
The judge was forced to suppress the search warrant for Hilgers’ home, as well as the additional warrant that was issued after the images were discovered.
Hilgers’ attorney asked that the sexual assault charge be dismissed, as well, but Markson denied that motion.
Though he did not remark on the coincidental nature of finding child pornography based on a warrant that accidentally said they were searching for…child pornography, Markson remarked:
“I do think that likely what happened was a result of cutting and pasting by using a warrant from a different case that involved child pornography.”
Yeah, no sh*t, Sherlock.