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WI Supreme Court: Probation officer can look at client's computer without warrant

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Wisconsin's highest court said it was okay for a probation officer to look at a client's computer without a warrant, which resulted in a child pornography conviction.

In a 5-2 ruling Friday, the State Supreme Court reinstated convictions on 4 counts of child porn possession against 28-year-old Jeremiah Purtell of Hartford.

An appeals court threw out those verdicts, saying the search of Purtell's computer violated his Fourth Amendment rights. But the Supreme Court said a probation agent can search a computer if there are "reasonable grounds" to suspect contraband.

Purtell was on probation in a Dane County case of animal cruelty. He had complained to his probation officer that he was not allowed to have a computer, and he admitted having a MySpace social media account.

The probation officer looked at it and found images of bestiality, and investigators later found large amounts of child porn.That sent Purtell to prison for 12 years.

The state Justice Department said it was pleased with Friday's ruling, while Purtell's lawyer said it might lead to more warrantless searches.

Also Friday, the justices reinstated a conviction against James Hunt of Fort Atkinson, for letting his adopted 12-year-old daughter see cellphone images of a couple having sex.

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)