Child porn suspect claims authorities used illegal search

By Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Pres

JACKSON – A man charged with possession of child pornography during a prostitution investigation claims Biloxi police had no right to look at the contents of his computers after executing a search warrant for drugs in 2009.
A hearing is scheduled for Monday in U.S. District Court in Gulfport on Harry Gonsoulin’s motions to suppress evidence found during the search of his home and to dismiss the child pornography case.
Gonsoulin, 49, claims he was pulled over after leaving his house in 2009 because a woman identified him as the operator of an illegal escort service. Court records said police found a marijuana cigarette in his jacket pocket during the traffic stop and used illegal drugs as the basis for searching his house.
“If this standard of allowing searches of homes and computers for every person who smokes a joint stands, a large portion of the population will be subject to this intrusion of their privacy,” Gonsoulin argues in court documents.
One of four warrants
That’s not how prosecutors and police describe it. Police said the search warrant based on the marijuana was just one of four issued during the investigation.
Prosecutors said in court records this past week that two women arrested Nov. 5, 2009, during a prostitution investigation identified Gonsoulin as their employer. Arrest warrants were issued for violations of city prostitution ordinances. Gonsoulin was placed under surveillance and pulled over near his home on Nov. 18, 2009.
Police claim they got a warrant to search his home for drugs after finding the marijuana. Once inside the home, investigators said they found evidence of the escort service, including “seven active telephone lines, computers, a cabinet and two boards posted on the walls … The boards displayed local hotels with telephone numbers, addresses, girls’ names, e-mail addresses, and a listing of telephone numbers associated with other illegal escort services/prostitution in the Biloxi area.”
Prosecutors claim the computers were taken as evidence and police applied for a second warrant to search them for evidence related to the escort service. That’s when prosecutors claim that images were found depicting a girl, who appeared to be about 9 years old, involved in sexually explicit conduct.
Police said they applied for a third warrant to search the computers for evidence related to child exploitation. Further searches of the computer uncovered videos of adults having sex with children, court records said.
Police said they found more drugs and another computer when they went to arrest Gonsoulin on the child exploitation charge. A fourth search warrant was issued.
Gonsoulin has already pleaded guilty to state charges related to the escort service and drugs, court records said.