Judge denies Leavitt motion, sets trial date

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Leavitt

SPOKANE — A federal court judge in Spokane has ruled evidence collected from the cell phone of former Warden City Council member Michael Leavitt is admissible. A new trial date in the case has been set for late March.

Leavitt, who is free on bond, was arrested a year ago on suspicion of child pornography after he was accused of taking pictures up a grade-school girl’s dress while he was working as a substitute teacher at Warden Elementary School.

He was taken into federal custody last fall after being charged with possession and receipt of child pornography.

Judge Thomas Rice wrote in a March 8 ruling that Warden Police Chief Rick Martin and Border Patrol Agent Lance Lyons acted in good faith and within the law when Martin seized Leavitt’s iPhone and Lyons obtained search warrants to examine it.

Matthew Campbell, a Spokane-based attorney representing Leavitt, claimed in a court filing in February that the seizure of Leavitt’s phone prior to the issuing of a warrant was illegal, and that all information gathered from every subsequent search was illegal as well.

However, Rice ruled that Leavitt failed to show “any impropriety with respect to information obtained” from his electronic devices.

A second filing from U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Harrington dated March 7 noted federal prosecutors have seized three iPhones, one iPad, and a Dell desktop computer from Leavitt, and are “seeking forfeiture” of those devices under a federal law that allows the government to seize property of those convicted of crimes involving the “sexual abuse and exploitation of children.”

Leavitt has not been tried yet, much less convicted. However, in his ruling, Rice has set the date for Leavitt’s trial for Monday, March 25.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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