Jerry Hilgers was looking at the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars after investigators found a hard drive filled with child pornography in his home, but instead the Wisconsin police officer will go free due to a typo on the search warrant.
The 43-year-old Dane County sheriff’s deputy originally had seven counts of possession of child pornography, but they were all dropped when a judge ruled that a copy-and-paste error on the search warrant made everything police found on the computer inadmissible.
The Free Thought Project has the details.
“According to the report, investigators inadvertently used a paragraph, which stated they were searching for child pornography, instead of one specifying the search was for evidence in an illicit relationship between Hilgers and a woman serving a jail sentence at home on electronic monitoring.”
“The error was insurmountable, Dane County Circuit Judge John Markson said, so he had to suppress the search warrant along with a subsequent search warrant that was issued after child pornography was initially discovered, which led to the discovery of even more child pornography.”
Markson said he believes the error was made when officers may have accidentally inserted part of a different warrant into the one for Jerry Hilgers.
“I do think that likely what happened was a result of cutting and pasting by using a warrant from a different case that involved child pornography,” Markson said, agreeing with an explanation for the error provided earlier by Deputy District Attorney Michelle Viste.
The case has made nationwide headlines, cited as evidence by those who believe that police officers are held to a different standard than ordinary citizens. Hilgers’ case follows some other high-profile cases involving police officers who were either not indicted or found innocent of killing suspects.
After a grand jury voted not to follow through with charges against Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of teen Michael Brown, protesters took to the streets for days of demonstrations that often turned violent. The case also led to a brighter light on other instances of perceived police misconduct.
With the evidence thrown out, Jerry Hilgers will no longer be able to face charges for possession of child pornography. He can still face charges for sexual assault, however. In an ironic twist of fate, he is now married to the woman named in the original warrant.