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Springfield police went to the Golden Pond Apartments on West Maplewood in 2020 looking for one person suspected of having child porn and ended up catching a different one.
As a result, U.S. District Judge Douglas Harpool on Monday found Alvan Allen, 44, guilty of possessing child pornography. The bench trial was Nov. 1. Allen will be sentenced at a later date.
The man police initially sought took his own life six days after police searched his home.
According to court documents, the investigation started when a 13-year-old girl reported to her mother in January 2020 that when she was 8, the mother’s boyfriend at the time sexually assaulted her and took nude photos of her at his apartment.
Springfield Police Department Investigator Lee Walker applied for a warrant to search Adam Nordin’s apartment and to seize, among other items, all cell phones. The warrant did not specifically state whose cell phones were to be seized.
The search warrant was served Aug. 13, 2020, but Nordin, an over-the-road trucker, was not home.
Those with child pornography almost always hang onto it
According Walker’s application for the search warrant, those who possess child pornography almost always keep it — usually in their homes, where they believe it is safe from law enforcement.
Court documents state it is so well known child pornographers hold onto the evidence that can convict them that “the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes Missouri) has held that under these circumstances, a search warrant is valid even if the application completely omits the date that the illicit photographs were taken.”
At the apartment, police encountered Allen and another man who appeared to be living there, at least temporarily. The other man has not been charged. Allen said he was “housesitting.”
Six days later after the search, the man who lived in the apartment took his own life.
According to court records, Walker told Allen police were there to investigate the truck driver who lived there on possible charges of child pornography and the sexual assault of a child.
Allen’s attorney argued in federal court that anything Allen told Walker should not be allowed at trial, because the police officer never gave Allen a Miranda warning. Such a warning is when an officer tells a suspect:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to an attorney.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.
- If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.
- Do you understand the rights I just read to you?
Prosecutors say: No need to ‘Mirandize’
Prosecutors agreed Walker never “Mirandized” Allen, but they say there was no legal reason to do so. Allen wasn’t a crime suspect; he wasn’t in custody; and Walker made it clear that Allen did not have to talk because the focus was on someone else.
Judge Harpool rejected the defense motion to suppress evidence. The two arguments offered were that Allen should have been Mirandized and, second, the search warrant was overly broad.
Harpool wrote that during the police officer’s interview of Allen, “Defendant walked about freely for periods during the interview, officers informed defendant the interview was voluntary, the interview took place outside Defendant’s own residence, and Defendant was not arrested following the interview.”
According to court records, at some point Walker and Adams were sitting in lawn chairs outside the apartment as they talked.
Walker at some point asked Allen if he could see the phone Allen had.
Defendant says smut was already on phone when he bought it
Files containing child pornography was on that phone, despite the fact that, according to court records, Allen started to delete images when he saw police arrive.
Allen then told Walker he had recently bought the phone from an unknown person at a Walmart in Texas, and that the sexually explicit images of children must have already been on the phone when he purchased it.
In the search, 35 storage devices, cell phones, computers, compact discs and cameras were seized.
Allen had been convicted in 2000 on two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child in Kansas. In addition, he had failed to register as a sex offender in Missouri and in Kansas.