False Facebook Friend Yielded Genuine Admissible Evidence

United States v. Farrad, 895 F.3d 859 (6th Cir. 2018)

Shortly after his release from federal prison (after serving time for a felony), Farrad was looking for new friends. A police officer, aware of Farrad’s presence in town, used an undercover name on a Facebook account to send Farrad a “friend request.” Farrad accepted the officer’s request.

Once they were bosom buddies, at least as much as one can be in Facebook land, the officer could view more of Farrad’s posts and photos. The officer viewed a recent photo showing three handguns “sitting on a closed toilet lid in a bathroom.” I suppose that’s as good as any place to keep one’s guns.

The officer shared the photo with another officer, who obtained a search warrant for Farrad’s Facebook newsfeed. The facebook friend yielded genuine admissible evidenceThe warrant search yielded other photos, including a photo of someone appearing to be Farrad holding what appears to be a gun, as well as a close-up of a hand holding what appears to be a gun. Farrad was arrested for being a federal felon in possession of a gun.

Farrad’s defense claimed the prosecution didn’t prove the guns were actual firearms. After hearing testimony from an expert armorer, the jury rejected that claim. Farrad also argued people could post photos of guns on Facebook to show that “this house protected by Smith & Wesson,” even if no gun was actually present in the house. Anyway, the gun wasn’t a Smith & Wesson; it was a Springfield XD .45 handgun.

Finally, Farrad claimed the officer violated the Fourth Amendment with his undercover Facebook friend request. The court held that “Farrad has pointed to no record evidence to support his assertions regarding an illegal search.” Thus, the Facebook friend yielded genuine admissible evidence and Farrad will have the opportunity to find new friends during the next 15 ½ years he will be spending in federal prison. Maybe even new Facebook friends.

Ken Wallentine

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over four decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

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