Gray man faces decades for child porn charges

Jerry Luke
Jerry Luke

A Gray man charged in federal court with possession of child pornography is asking the judge to throw out the evidence seized when Knox County Sheriff’s deputies searched his residence in 2013, arguing the search was unconstitutional.

In the motion to suppress filed last week in U.S. District Court in London on behalf of 47-year-old Jerry Luke, attorney Willis Coffey argues that when deputies secured the first of two search warrants for his residence on Jan. 16, 2013, there was no probable cause for the warrant.

Coffey noted that law enforcement initially came to Luke’s residence in response to a report that a 16-year-old female juvenile had run away from home and may have been at that location.

Coffey noted that law enforcement found Luke and the juvenile in the parking lot of the Corbin Public Library the following morning.

Law enforcement reported finding two adult magazines inside Luke’s vehicle, adding the juvenile stated she had consensual sex with Luke.

Under Kentucky Law, a 16-year-old may legally consent to sex with an adult so long as the adult is not providing a foster family home for the minor.

However, Luke was charged with custodial interference and unlawful transaction with a minor.

According to Coffey, law enforcement agreed to take Luke to his residence to feed his dogs prior to taking him to jail.

“However, almost immediately upon arrival at Luke’s residence, law enforcement conducted a warrantless search of the residence,” Coffey stated. “At some point while at his residence, Luke signed a standardized consent to search form. However, Luke denies he gave timely, voluntary and knowing consent.

Coffey stated police found a whip, handcuffs, shackles and other sex items in a suitcase near the bed, along with other adult magazines.

“Based solely on the discoveries in the bedroom and the ‘nature of the crime’ (again according to the police report) law enforcement seized the computer and related items looking for child pornography,” Coffey stated, noting law enforcement then secured a search warrant.

Coffey noted the items seized during the warrantless search are the same items listed as being seized via the search warrant.

In addition, Coffey noted law enforcement obtained a second search warrant on Jan. 17, 2013 to search the contents of the computer and other items seized.

While admitting that the search revealed pornography featuring both adult and underage individuals was found on the computer, Coffey again contends Luke did not give timely, knowing and voluntary consent.

Coffey noted that Luke was not asked to sign the standardized consent to search form until the search had been completed and the computer and equipment removed from the house.

“Further he (Luke) did not understand the nature of the consent form, was unable to read it, and did not have the form explained to him,” Coffey stated.

Even if the court finds the consent to search was valid, Coffey contends the evidence should be thrown out as the computer and related items were improperly seized.

The law gives law enforcement the right to seize evidence that is in plain view.

However, should an item(s) arouse suspicions of illegality it would require further investigation to establish probable cause.

In the case of the computer, Coffey noted the computer could not immediately draw suspicion and would require further testing.

Coffey added that the search warrant was invalid as there was no probable cause for the warrant to be issued.

Coffey noted the affidavit for the warrant only mentions the missing juvenile and notes she may have spoken with Luke via phone.

“The affidavit specifically states Luke’s residence was checked throughout the evening and night ‘with no one home,’” Coffey stated. “The affidavit does not even connect the juvenile to Luke’s residence. What contraband or evidence of crime could anyone reasonably expect to find at Luke’s residence based on this affidavit?”

Coffey added that law enforcement failed to inform the judge who issued the search warrant that Luke and the juvenile had been found almost two hours before the warrant was issued.

“In short, when did the investigation switch from a missing person case to a child pornography case (with sufficient information) to justify the seizure of computer and other items?”

As to the warrant to search the computer and other related items, Coffey contends it is invalid because they were illegally seized.

Coffey added that even if the items were legally seized, then the contents are inadmissible because the warrant to search the contents lacked probable cause.

“There is absolutely no suggestion of child pornography in this case until the seized items were examined,” Coffey stated. “It is quite a stretch to suggest in all residential searches where sex toys (bondage equipment) and adult magazines are found that law enforcement can seize the home computer (if one is located) to search for child porn.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Hanly A. Ingram ordered a telephone conference on the motion to be held today.

The case is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 11 in London.

Luke was initially indicted in Knox Circuit Court in 2013 on 47 counts of possession of child pornography. However, those charges were dismissed when the FBI took over the investigation and presented the case to a federal grand jury.

A federal indictment was returned on Feb. 25, alleging that Luke possessed electronic media that contained visual depictions of a minor under the age of 12 engaging in sexually explicit conduct. The indictment alleges that the depictions had been shipped and transported via interstate and foreign commerce.

Luke had been scheduled to go to trial in August. However, that date was continued when a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging Luke with attempting to entice or coerce a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing child pornography.

If convicted, Luke faces up to 20 years in prison on the possession charge and 15 to 30 years in prison on the charge of attempting to entice or coerce a minor.