United States v. Surrey

Fourth defendant in child porn case goes free because FBI used false information

  • PETER SHINKLE Of the Post-Dispatch
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
  • May 15, 2005
  • Section: Metro
  • Edition: Five Star Lift
  • Page D3

When a federal judge dismissed child pornography charges against a Maryland Heights man Thursday, the man became at least the fourth person targeted in a major child porn investigation to go free because the FBI had used false information in a search warrant, a defense attorney said.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry of St. Louis, who reversed the conviction of Corey Surrey last week, dismissed the indictment. Surrey's lawyer, Daniel Juengel , argued that Surrey's previous attorney had not informed Surrey that he could seek to withdraw his guilty plea at a time when the FBI's handling of the investigation was under fire.

After Surrey pleaded guilty in September 2002, Perry fined him $5,000 and placed him on probation for five years.

In another case filed about the same time, Juengel represented a man who admitted having child pornography on his home computer. Those charges were dismissed in early 2003 after Juengel discovered that the FBI agent who led the agency's so-called "Candyman" investigation had provided false information used to obtain a warrant to search the man's home.

Perry suppressed pornographic images seized from his computer. The judge said had Surrey challenged use of the evidence seized in his case, she would have suppressed it, too.

Juengel said cases against at least two other defendants in the Candyman investigation -- both in New York -- had been dismissed as a result of the FBI's use of false information.

In recent years, the Department of Justice has put a priority of enforcing child pornography laws, partly because the Internet plays a key role in its distribution. On Friday, three men -- none involved in the Candyman investigation -- were sentenced in federal court in St. Louis to terms ranging from 27 months to 63 months in prison, said assistant U.S. attorney Carrie Costantin.