USA v. ALEXANDER MONTAGU HAY Cases of Interest >  Cyberlaw >  Privacy


Background and Description

Alexander Hay is appealing his conviction of possession and distribution of child pornography by means of a computer. He claims that search of his entire computer system based on a seven-minute, six-month old transmission of 19 images of child pornography was unreasonable. He blames the district court because they showed the jury 3 exibits of child pornography. The way that his computer came about being investigated was the Canadian authorities arrested a Dr. Blair Evans for the trafficking of digital computer images. Dr. Evans had logs of his transmissions and there was a log for the transmission of 19 images to the IP address of That IP address belonged to the University of Washington.

In February of 1997, the Ontario police gave this information to the United States Customs service. US customs then forwarded on to the customs office in Seattle, Washington. The university found that the address was associated with the University’s Steven’s Court housing facility and belonged to the particular Ethernet interface address of 00C0F009C4DE. That address was associated with a second IP address which was assigned to Alexander Hay, who was an electrical engineering major. Customs verified that Hay owned a computer and used it in his room frequently by making an undercover telephone call. That was enough to get a search warrant. Forensic investigators found hundreds of child pornography images. After Hay was indicted, he tried to suppress the evidence for lack of probably cause to search on the ground of staleness. His motion was denied. The district court found him guilty and he has appealed.

Court’s Analysis

Hay’s first claim is that the government failed to establish probable cause because there was no evidence of a pattern of unlawful activity. Hay tries to say that he could have gotten the images from SPAM or someone could have anonymously sent them to him via FTP transfer. He tries to make reference to other cases where it was ruled that the search warrant wasn’t obtained correctly, but was very unconvincing. The court ruled that his case was very different from all of those that he tried to compare it to.
Hay’s second claim is that the government’s application, which took place 6 months after Evans transmitted the 19 images to his computer, was too stale to justify the warrant. The court refers to a case where it had been 10 months and it was ruled not stale. There is a known trend among child pornography collectors and distributors that if they value their child porn a lot, they rarely dispose of it.

The third argument that Hay tries t make is that the warrant was overbroad and lacked particularity because it authorized the government to search and seize Hay’s entire computer system and virtually ever document in Hay’s possession without referencing child pornography or any particular offense conduct or being narrowed by specific acts, time frames or persons. The court ruled that they couldn’t be any more specific about what to seize than what they were. Hay compares the search and seizure to other ones that were condemned for overbreadth. The court found that all of the ones he referred to were distinguishable between their cases and his.
Hay also made an argument that he was entitled to a hearing under Franks v. Deleware because the warrant affidavit misled the magistrate judge into believing that Hay owned the sole computer tied to address He claimed that a computer with a different mac address used the same ip address and that this information was not released. As he failed to prove that ridiculous claim, he of course had no argument.


Hay is seeking reversal of his conviction, but has no good arguments as to why he shouldn’t be convicted. He was basically trying to make any claims that he could, whether they be ridiculous or not. Of course, the court saw that this was a lost cause and Hay lost the case. The case was affirmed.

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