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Canadian Supreme Court overturns child porn conviction in 4-3 split decision; Defendant Was Railroaded

OTTAWA — A Saskatchewan man convicted of possessing child pornography has been acquitted by the Supreme Court because it was “unreasonable” for the RCMP to search his computer.

In a split 4-3 decision handed down Friday, the Supreme Court found Urbain P. Morelli had been subjected to an “unreasonable” search and seizure in 2003.

Morelli was sentenced to 18 months house arrest in 2005, but his lawyer argued at the Supreme Court last year that a judge erred in giving the RCMP a warrant to search Morelli’s home.

As noted in court documents, the search warrant was based only on a statement by a computer technician who, months earlier, had been to Morelli’s house to install high-speed Internet.

He noticed two websites on Morelli’s “favourites” menu called Lolita Porn and Lolita XXX, and also that Morelli had a webcam pointed at the floor where his three-year-old daughter’s toys were scattered about, which combined caused alarm.

The next day, when the technician returned to finish the job, Morelli’s computer had been formatted, and the websites deleted.

A few months later, the computer technician told his mother, a former social worker, what he saw and she contacted the police.

The search warrant was issued in January 2003, four months after the technician visited Morelli’s house, where he lived with his wife and two children, then aged three and seven.

Supreme Court Justice Morris Fish wrote in the court’s decision the search warrant was, “carelessly drafted, materially misleading, and factually incomplete,” and “… justice receives a black eye when it turns a blind eye to unconstitutional searches and seizures as a result of unacceptable police conduct or practices.”

There was no evidence that Morelli had used the webcam inappropriately, or had stored any inappropriate images.

James Korpan, a partner at Gauley McDougall who worked on the case, said Morelli is “very relieved that there’s now been a favourable resolution.

“He’s just looking forward to putting this behind him and getting on with his life,” Korpan said, confirming Morelli had served his 18 month house arrest sentence.

Morelli could not be reached for comment Friday.

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