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Ex-Cop Held Over Encrypted Computers in Child Porn Raid

Lawyers say he shouldn't have to give up passwords
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2016 10:28 AM CDT

(Newser) – A former Philadelphia cop has been held in solitary confinement for seven months as part of a child porn investigation, but his case is unusual in that no charges have been filed against him yet. As Gizmodo reports, law enforcement officials raided Francis Rawls' home last year and seized an Apple computer, a Mac Mini, an iPhone, and external hard drives. Rawls told officers his devices were encrypted, but he wouldn't give up the passwords. When he was ordered to do so in federal court, the 17-year veteran decrypted some of the devices, per Philly.com, but said he couldn't remember the codes for the hard drives. A judge then ordered Rawls held in custody "until such time that he fully complies with the order."

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He was fired for "conduct unbecoming of a police officer" and now spends 22.5 hours a day in a cell and gets one 15-minute phone call per month. In an appeal filed Tuesday, Rawls' lawyers say that even if Rawls could remember the passwords, he shouldn't have to reveal them because of his right against self-incrimination. "Being forced to decrypt or provide your password is a violation of your Fifth Amendment rights because it's a testimonial act, which is what the Fifth Amendment protects against," a rep for the Electronic Frontier Foundation tells Gizmodo. A federal court ruled a similar password request was unconstitutional in 2012. (Read more Fifth Amendment stories.)

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