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US Court curbs power of police to seize cellphones from homes

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A U.S. appeals court said on Friday the widespread prevalence of mobile devices means that it is insufficient as a basis for obtaining a warrant to search someone’s home for a cellphone.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia’s Circuit threw out a D.C. man’s criminal conviction for unlawful possession of a fireman by a felon, saying in a 2-1 ruling that the police found the weapon only because they drafted an “overly broad” search warrant.

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The warrant did not say police believed they would find a gun. Instead, it authorized officers to search for any cellphones and other electronic devices in the man’s residence.

The warrant was unconstitutional because police had no particular reason to think the man owned a cellphone or that it would contain incriminating messages, the court said.

“The assumption that most people own a cell phone would not automatically justify an open-ended warrant to search a home anytime officers seek a person’s phone,” Judge Sri Srinivasan said in a decision joined by Judge Nina Pillard.

The man at the center of the case, Ezra Griffith, was suspected by Washington police of acting as the getaway driver in a 2011 murder.

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In 2013 a judge approved a warrant that allowed police to enter Griffith’s residence and seize cellphones. When police arrived at Griffith’s residence they seized a gun that had been thrown from a window.

Griffith had a prior criminal conviction so prosecutors charged him with unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. A jury convicted him in 2013.

Griffith’s lawyers argued the gun should have been suppressed, saying the warrant under which it was found was defective because of its focus on cellphones.

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The D.C. Circuit said in Friday’s ruling that police did not have probable cause to think Griffith owned a cellphone, much less that the phone would turn up evidence relating to his alleged role in the murder.

“Finding the existence of probable cause in this case, therefore, would verge on authorizing a search of a person’s home almost anytime there is probable cause to suspect her of a crime,” Srinivasan said in the court’s majority decision. “We cannot accept that proposition.”

Judge Janice Rogers Brown dissented, saying the gun should have been allowed into evidence because police acted in good faith.

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(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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2020 Election

Scientist who correctly predicted 2018 midterms says Democrats can win 18 more seats in 2020

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The political scientist who correctly predicted the 2018 elections says Democrats left seats on the table in the midterms -- and can win them in 2020.

Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, was interviewed by MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on "The Last Word."

"Could you explain to the viewers how it is you determine what it was that actually did win a given congressional district?" O'Donnell asked. "When there is this common belief that, oh, well, the Democrats ran because the Republicans threatened their health care and so some swing voters switched over from Republican voting to democratic voting."

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2020 Election

Maddow reveals how Chinese group Falun Gong went from disrupting events to running a shadow campaign for Trump

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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Tuesday detailed the remarkable journey of the group Falun Gong shifting from disrupting White House events to dominating the conversation on Facebook.

Maddow hilariously recounted the "major embarrassment" for the George W. Bush White House when a protester interrupted remarks by President of China Hu Jintao.

The protester was credentialed to cover the event for the Epoch Times, which is controlled by Falun Gong.

"Well, NBC News has a scoop out today about that group, about how that paper, the Epoch Times has transformed itself a lot in the Trump era. It’s a real revelation, this reporting from NBC News," Maddow said. "I mean, Epoch Times and its media group, they’ve made themselves into a whole new thing entirely and in a very big way."

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CNN

Trump’s failed Federal Reserve nominee doesn’t even know what the interest rate was 10 years ago

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On Tuesday, CNN's Chris Cuomo invited on Stephen Moore, supply-side economist and President Donald Trump's failed pick for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, to discuss the state of the administration — and Moore made a hilariously wrong remark about interest rates that suggests the country was better off without him.

"There's no greatest economy ever," said Cuomo. "You know these things ... he's doing well. He's not doing better than we've ever seen before, and you guys got the benefits of juicing the economy with this tax cut. Fair point?"

"Let me say this, I think it's a pretty darn good economy," said Moore. "I'll cite a few statistics. It's a pretty darn good one. We have the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years ... and for blacks and Hispanics and women."

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