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In re Search Warrant For 1832 Candia Road, Manchester

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

June 8, 2018

IN RE SEARCH WARRANT FOR 1832 CANDIA ROAD, MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE

          Argued: March 21, 2018

          6th Circuit Court-Concord District Division

          Tarbell & Brodich Professional Association, of Concord (Friedrich K. Moeckel on the brief and orally), for Richard Exline.

          Gordon J. MacDonald, attorney general (Elizabeth C. Woodcock, assistant attorney general, on the brief and orally), for the State.

          HICKS, J.

         Richard Exline appeals an order of the Circuit Court (Gordon, J.) denying his motion for the immediate return of seized property on the ground that the affidavit supporting the search warrant under which the seizure occurred fails to establish probable cause. We affirm.

         The relevant facts follow. In March 2017, a warrant was issued to search "any computer, computer system, mobile digital device, camera, router, wi-fi device, cellular telephone, smart phone, [and] commercial software and hardware" located at 1832 Candia Road in Manchester (Exline's residence). The warrant stated that there was probable cause to believe that the property so described was relevant to the crimes of identity fraud, see RSA 638:26 (2016), and tampering with public or private records, see RSA 638:3 (2016).

          The affidavit submitted in support of the warrant application avers that, on August 5, 2016, the affiant, a state police detective, received an e-mail message from the assistant commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Safety (DOS) regarding e-mail messages that had been received by State of New Hampshire officials and employees. The assistant commissioner was concerned that there had been a "cyber-attack."

         The investigating detective met with William Joseph, the deputy director of DOS, who said that Elizabeth Bielecki, the director of DOS, had received an e-mail containing a link to a "Craigslist" post. The Craigslist post stated: "Vote No William Joseph reapointment [sic] at NH DMV." (Bolding omitted.) The Craigslist post concerned Joseph's potential August 2016 reappointment to his position as deputy director.

         The e-mail message to Bielecki indicated that it had been sent from "noreply@craigslist.org" on August 5, 2016, at 12:52 p.m. The subject line of the message stated: "Vote No William Joseph reapointment [sic] at." The body of the message included a link to the Craigslist post and indicated that Bielecki had forwarded the Craigslist post to herself, using her government e-mail address. Bielecki confirmed that, in fact, she had not forwarded the post to herself, nor had she authorized anyone to use her government e-mail address.

         The detective subsequently spoke with Jeffrey Oberdank, the supervisor of driver licensing, who had received a similar e-mail message containing a link to the Craigslist post. Although the body of the message stated that Oberdank had forwarded the post to himself from his government e-mail address, he had not done so and had not authorized anyone to use his government e-mail address. Ultimately, the detective discovered that 54 DOS administrators and employees had received an e-mail message containing a link to the Craigslist post. Each message appeared to have been forwarded to the recipient by the recipient himself or herself, using the recipient's government e-mail address.

         The detective learned that Exline and his girlfriend might have been responsible for the Craigslist post and for forwarding it by using the e-mail addresses of DOS administrators and employees without authorization. Exline's girlfriend, a DOS employee, has had "disciplinary issues" involving Joseph and dislikes him. The detective was told that, in May 2016, Exline's business e-mail address was used to send a message to the Governor's communications director urging that Joseph resign because of poor work performance.

         According to a Craigslist official, to forward a Craigslist post to oneself, an individual must enter his or her e-mail address twice - once as the e-mail address to which the post will be sent, and again as the e-mail address from which the post will be sent. The official informed the detective that Craigslist "could not provide documentation on who sent the [Craigslist] post to the 54 recipients, " but that such "information could possibly be obtained from the source computer that sent the emails."

         The detective later obtained information revealing that the Craigslist post originated from Exline's business e-mail address. The post had been created at approximately 12:30 p.m. and had been posted to the Craigslist website at approximately 12:46 p.m. Information also showed that Exline is the subscriber associated with the "Internet Protocol address" (IP) from which the Craigslist ...


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