Federal judge drops child pornography charges against California physician: 6 things to know

 

A federal judge dismissed charges of child poronography against a Hoag Hospital Newport Beach (Calif.) physician, stating the evidence presented by federal officials was obtained illegally, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Here are six things to know about the case.

1. In November 2011, Mark Rettenmaier, MD, a gynecological oncologist at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach, took his computer to Best Buy for repairs. The computer's hard drive was sent to a maintenance facility in Kentucky, where a technician discovered an image that reportedly triggered an FBI investigation, the report states.

2. The FBI obtained an affidavit to search Dr. Rettenmaier's home. In 2014, he was indicted on two felony counts of possession of child pornography.

3. Attorneys on behalf of Dr. Rettenmaier argued the alleged pornographic files were found in an unallocated space in the drive where deleted files are kept, meaning Dr. Rettenmaier may not have even been aware of the photographs. Dr. Rettenmaier's lawyers also claimed the Best Buy employees who initially searched the laptop acted improperly as paid FBI informants, the report states. The lawyers also said Dr. Rettenmaier has been unable to continue his work at Hoag Hospital since the charges were filed.

4. In a May 15 ruling earlier this year, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney voiced his concerns regarding the FBI's "false and misleading statements" to obtain the affidavit. The judge also said although the image found on Dr. Rettenmaier's computer hard drive was "distasteful and disturbing," the photograph did not meet the state's legal standard of child pornography, according to the report.

5. Judge Carney concluded the photograph was not enough to grant a warrant to search Dr. Rettenmaier's home, thereby disallowing the prosecution to present the evidence found on Dr. Rettenmaier's phone, laptop and multiple hard drives at trial.

6. In his statement dismissing the charges, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Anthony Brown wrote, "In this case, having evaluated the evidence remaining after the court's ruling on defendant's suppression motions, the government believes it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the case."

Editor's note: Becker's Hospital Review reached out to Hoag Hospital Newport Beach for comment and will update the article as more information becomes available.

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