POLITICS
12/18/2013 02:14 pm ET Updated Dec 18, 2013

Feds Took Special Precautions To Protect Senator's 'Speech Or Debate' In Child Porn Case

WASHINGTON -- Federal investigators carved out special protections before they seized Senate-owned devices belonging to former congressional aide Jesse Ryan Loskarn, who was arrested on child pornography charges last week.

Loskarn, who until last week served as chief-of-staff to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), came under investigation after he allegedly ordered child pornography from a network that was busted up earlier this year. But before federal agents executed a search warrant on his home in southeast D.C. last week, the government set up special search procedures for any Senate-issued devices.

The postal investigator working the case wrote in a search warrant affidavit he was "informed by the prosecutors overseeing this investigation that, by virtue of his employment, Loskarn's residence is likely to contain computers, other electronic devices (including mobile telephones, Blackberries and the like), and electronic storage media issued to Loskarn" in his official capacity. One of the prosecutors who helped obtain the search warrant, which was unsealed this week, is from the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section.

"The prosecutors have further informed me that those Senate-Issued Devices are likely to contain materials protected by the Speech or Debate Clause of the United States Constitution," Postal Inspector Brian Bone wrote.

Under a procedure spelled out in the search warrant application, the Justice Department was to contact the Office of Senate Legal Counsel, which in turn contacted Alexander and gave him an opportunity to either waive or assert the speech or debate privilege.

Alexander's office said last week they were "fully cooperating" with the investigation, and said this week he waived his speech or debate protections within an hour of receiving the request from DOJ. There's been no indication at this point that Loskarn had any child pornography on a Senate-issued device.

The search warrant application noted that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit "has held that even incidental review of Speech or Debate privileged material by agents during the execution of a search of a Member’s office violates the Privilege unless the member is provided an opportunity to review and assert the Privilege."

Speech or debate protections make it more difficult to prosecute members of Congress, especially in bribery cases, since references to legislative acts aren't allowed to be included in court proceedings. The rules generally make it more difficult to gather evidence against members of Congress.

Loskarn is currently living with his parents in Maryland as he awaits trial.

According to the 43-page search warrant affidavit, Loskarn had several shipments of child pornography sent directly to his home address under the name "J Loskarn." DOJ issued an administrative subpoena for Loskarn's Hotmail address back in May 2012, and in early October 2013 found at least six files being shared on a peer-to-peer network, according to the search warrant affidavit.

Read the search warrant affidavit, unsealed this week, below.

loskarnsearchwarrant

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