This feature is excerpted, in slightly modified form, from the new book The Internet Police: How Crime Went Online, and the Cops Followed by Ars deputy editor Nate Anderson. It can currently be purchased as a hardback (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or local bookstores) or as an e-book (Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, or Google Play).
In the morning of September 10, 2008, US Postal Inspector Lori Heath had assembled a Baltimore team to raid the ramshackle Independence Street home of a suspected Internet child pornography kingpin. They got an early start; with help from local cops, Heath put the house under surveillance at 6:00am. By 8:30am, the full twelve-person group of postal inspectors, digital forensics specialists, and police officers was in position, but they couldn’t act—Heath was stalled down at the District Court, still waiting to get her search warrant signed. Without it, the raid was on hold.
The target was Roger Lee Loughry Sr., a fiftysomething mechanic with a high-school education, a handlebar mustache, and a love for motorcycles. Heath, in constant communication with her team back on Independence Street, wanted her warrant before Loughry got spooked by the surveillance. While she waited, Loughry stepped out into the morning air, unkempt hair hanging to his shoulders. To ensure he didn’t leave the property, the surveillance team broke from their vehicles and detained him next to his home.
At 9:00am, federal Magistrate Judge Beth Gesner signed off on the search warrant. Heath called her team immediately and they took Loughry back inside his home. Heath herself arrived shortly, crossed the dirt driveway, and let herself into the yard through the chain-link gate in the front fence.
The main source material for the piece was the hundreds of pages of transcripts detailing the trial of Roger Loughry in USA v. Savigar et al.—the Southern District of Indiana case used to prosecute most of The Cache defendants—along with other court documents and interviews with the lawyers involved. Full footnotes are available in the book.
The warrant team sat Loughry on a living room couch just to the right of the front door, then spent an hour and forty minutes combing the house. The vinyl-sided home was dilapidated; Heath’s inspectors went two steps down into the basement, but the stairs were so rickety that she worried someone might fall through. Most of the time was spent on the second floor where Loughry had his bedroom, a home office, and his computer. The agents were seeking information that could tie Loughry to an Internet message board called “The Cache,” a major site where members shared links to child pornography. The government had already penetrated the board’s security and so knew the online “handles” of its members. The site’s leader went by “DAS,” while Loughry was suspected to be a co-administrator named “Mayorroger.”
In addition to all the electronic evidence they collected, agents also discovered a scrap of paper with a cryptic address fragment scrawled in the lower right corner. Turning it over, they saw another notation: “Mr. D.A. Savigar, [house number redacted], Leyland, Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom, PR251AH.” It was the address for one Delwyn A. Savigar—whose initials spelled out “DAS”—and who was at that moment being arrested by the Lancashire Constabulary. Convinced now that she had the right guy, Heath went downstairs to speak with Loughry.
Loughry was willing to talk without a lawyer present, and he freely admitted to using the Mayorroger screen name for all sorts of online accounts; he had chosen it in the wake of a failed 1999 bid for mayor of Baltimore. He then volunteered that he was an admin for a site called The Cache—before Heath had even mentioned the name. Loughry claimed the position was just an “honorary” one, however; what most interested him about the site was a simple arcade game called “Army Corps.” And what harm was there in that?
Heath had done her research, though; she pointed out that The Cache had actually dropped support for the game some time ago. She asked Loughry about child pornography on the site. He “figured” such material was being traded on the board, he said, but claimed that he had worked to stop its spread. “The only functions I performed there was I banned people for posting child pornography,” he wrote in a signed statement at the end of this interview. “I did click the links to see their posts and then banned them… My understanding of ‘The Cache’ was they had adult porn and games. I have since left the site.” He told Heath that viewing child pornography was a “sickness”—and unlike every other man swept up in Cache-related raids across the US, Loughry refused to plead guilty. He wanted his trial.
As a government lawyer would later put it, “We expect his essential defense in substance to be, I was only an administrator of an adult porn game board, ‘The Cache.’ I didn’t know. I didn’t intend to do any of the things that the other people are doing.” The government didn’t buy it. Would a jury? Read the full story
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