Attorney for teen with autism facing child porn charge argues police ignored disability
The attorney for a young man with autism accused of distributing child pornography asked the judge Friday to throw out evidence obtained by Lincoln police because they disregarded his developmental disability.
The state says Jack Eichorst, who was 18 at the time and now is 19, made the choice freely and voluntarily to waive his rights and talk to police and to let them search his phone.
He is the son of former Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst.
In an affidavit for Jack Eichorst’s arrest last year, police said they found videos and images of children on his phone after he gave investigators permission to search the phone as they looked into a sex assault allegation by a 12-year-old boy.
Friday’s hearing came down to whether Eichorst, then 18, understood what he was doing when he signed the Miranda form and a form consenting to a search of his iPhone.
In the motion to suppress evidence in the case, defense attorney Sean Brennan said Lincoln police investigators disrupted his routine by intercepting Eichorst as he left school and isolated him from a parent waiting nearby to pick him up.
At Friday’s hearing, Brennan said police knew Eichorst was on the autism spectrum but the fact was “completely ignored” by the arresting officer and the officer who interviewed him at the police station Nov. 3, 2017.
“That renders a big problem for the government,” he argued, “because they did not obtain the precautions necessary and required by their own rules and by the law to make sure that a person being subjected to custodial interrogation who has a developmental disability properly understood the situation, properly understood the choices that were being made and made an intelligent and voluntary choice.”
Brennan said an attorney arrived at the police station during Eichorst’s interrogation and asked to speak with him, but the arresting officer prevented it until after he had given consent.
Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Chris Turner told Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret that when she watches the video of the police interview, she will see there was no coercion involved.
“He made his choice freely and voluntarily,” he said.
Turner said he thinks the court would see Eichorst’s case really is like many other suppression hearings the court’s heard before.
“It’s the same elements, it’s the same law that applies. But the request is going to be that additional protections, additional laws, should be present, but they aren’t. I think that’s really what this boils down to. The law is very clear,” he said.
Turner said Eichorst’s waiver of his right to remain silent and consent to search his phone both were valid and that police had probable cause to arrest him.
Maret will rule later, after attorneys submit written closing arguments.
The pretrial hearing in Eichorst’s case followed on the heels of an advocacy group for people with disabilities, Disability Rights Nebraska, seeking to submit a “friend of the court” brief in support of him.
Attorney Dianne DeLair said the group seeks to participate in this case “to urge this court to ensure that proper accommodations and protections are put into place for those with a developmental disability, such as Mr. Eichorst.”
Maret hasn’t yet ruled on the advocacy group’s request, a rarely seen move in a criminal case.