Lying on his family room floor with assault weapons trained on him, shouts of "pedophile!" and "pornographer!" stinging like his fresh cuts and bruises, the Buffalo homeowner didn't need long to figure out the reason for the early morning wake-up call from a swarm of federal agents.
That new wireless router. He'd gotten fed up trying to set a password. Someone must have used his Internet connection, he thought.
"We know who you are! You downloaded thousands of images at 11:30 last night," the man's lawyer, Barry Covert, recounted the agents saying. They referred to a screen name, "Doldrum."
"No, I didn't," he insisted. "Somebody else could have but I didn't do anything like that."
"You're a creep … just admit it," they said.
You know where this is going. They got the wrong guy. Someone else had used Covert's wireless connection to download child porn.
Law enforcement officials say the case is a cautionary tale.
It sure is. I can certainly think of some lessons we might draw. One might be: Maybe the cops should check to see if a suspect's wireless network is secure, and therefore that they have the right guy, before they break into his home and point their guns at his head.
Another lesson: Maybe it's not such a good idea to send the SWAT team after someone suspected of downloading—not even manufacturing—child porn in the first place. Are people who download kiddie porn known to be heavily armed?
As you might suspect, these aren't the lessons the police drew from their violent, mistaken raid on Barry Covert. This is:
Their advice: Password-protect your wireless router.
Probably good advice, given that they don't seem particularly concerned about their own mistakes in this case. Not doing so could well get you (or more likely, your dog) killed.
This one reminds me of one of the more amusing botched raids I've covered: The wrong-IP address, mistaken kiddie porn raid featuring lawman/SWAT officer Shaquille O'Neal.