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United States v. Golightley

United States District Court, D. Kansas

April 2, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL GOLIGHTLEY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN W. BROOMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter came before the court on March 21, 2019, for an evidentiary hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress (Doc. 25.)[1] The motion has been fully briefed and the court is prepared to rule. (Docs. 30, 32.) For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

         I. Facts

         Defendant is charged with seven counts of intentional damage to a protected computer, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5)(A) and one count of threat to damage a protected computer, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(7). On May 23, 2017, Jeffrey Ridgway, an investigator with the Hays Police Department, presented an application for a search warrant to Ellis County District Judge Glenn Braun. Ridgway sought a warrant for 714 1/2 Topeka Street, Larned, Kansas, to search for items that were evidence of a violation of K.S.A. 21-5839, specifically computers, laptops, cellular phones, tablets, or other mobile devices capable of being used to access the internet based Nex-Tech Classified system. Officers executed the search warrant for 714 1/2 Topeka Street on May 24. 714 Topeka Street is a residence that is modified into three apartments. (Doc. 25 at 1.) 714 1/2 Topeka is one of the three apartments at the residence. (Id.) Immediately after searching 714 1/2 Topeka Street, on May 24, 2017, Ridgway, presented a second application for a search warrant to Judge Braun. This warrant was to search the shed behind 714 Topeka Street. The second affidavit is nearly identical to the first affidavit. Therefore, the court will generally refer to both affidavits as “affidavit” throughout this order. Ridgway's affidavit included extensive statements regarding the investigation. Instead of quoting the relevant portions, the court will summarize the affidavit.

         Nex-Tech provides internet services and runs a classified advertisement service that is known as Nex-Tech Classifieds. On March 31, 2017, Nex-Tech COO Michael Pollock reported to Ridgway that their service had been a victim of a Distributed Denial of Services (DDOS) attack. A DDOS occurs when “multiple systems flood the bandwidth or resources of a targeted system, usually one or more web servers. Such an attack is often the result of multiple comprised systems (for example, a botnet) flooding the targeted system with traffic.” (Doc. 25, Exh. A at 2.) This results in preventing Nex-Tech customers from accessing the website. Ridgway conducted an investigation and reviewed Nex-Tech's records.

         Notably, prior to the attacks, Nex-Tech received threats. On March 27, 2017, a user identified as “grassisgreen” sent two threats by a Nex-Tech e-form contact within just a few minutes. The first threat stated:

take my ad down again when my description dosnt violate copy right, i will violate this site by bringing it offline, fix the ad. if u make me upset, i will retaliate, your choice, and im not making a threat im capable of bringing down this website

(Id., ¶ 14 l.) (spelling, capitalization, and grammar errors in original).

         The second threat stated: “ip address 24.225.8.90 will be submitted at exostress. in for 24 hours if my demands are not met with in (sic) 12 hours, your choice, and remember you have been warned.” (Id., ¶ 14 m.) The “grassisgreen” account was created on March 25 with an email address of ntcsucks@mail.com and a contact number of xxx-xxx-1011.[2] On March 25, “grassisgreen” posted an ad for a 1200cc Suzuki Bandit motorcycle. The IP address that was used by “grassisgreen” was 69.98.202.80, which was the static IP address for the Pawnee County Courthouse (“Courthouse IP”). Shortly after the first posting, “grassisgreen” posted an ad for a “jailbrokenPS3, ” using the same IP address and the same contact number. This ad was rejected by Nex-Tech for violating Nex-Tech's terms of service.

         On March 26, the user "waterisblue" was created with an e-mail address of janentcsucks@mail.com. The city listed for the user is Larned, Kansas. Within the same hour of creating the user name, the user contacted another classified user and accessed the internet through Courthouse IP. That same evening, “grassisgreen” contacted other classified users from an electronic device accessing the internet by using the IP address 68.99.114.67. This IP address was the static IP address assigned to the Jordaan Memorial Library (“Library IP.”)

         On March 27, after sending the threats, “grassisgreen” sent another user a message by utilizing the Library IP to access the internet. Nex-Tech deactivated the “grassisgreen” account shortly after this message was sent. Later that morning, “waterisblue” posted an advertisement for a 1200cc Suzuki Bandit motorcycle using the Library IP. On March 29, “waterisblue” posted an advertisement for a PlayStation 3 using a different IP address. The contact phone number listed was xxx-xxx-1011. Shortly thereafter, the posting was rejected for violating the terms of service.

         On March 30, “waterisblue” posted an advertisement for a PlayStation 3 from the Library IP address. The contact phone number listed was xxx-xxx-1011. Again, the posting was rejected for violating the terms of service. “Waterisblue” then contacted the help desk to inquire as to the reason for the rejection. Later that evening, from 8:50 to 9:10 p.m., a DDOS attack occurred which prevented customers from accessing the Nex-Tech classifieds web site. Between 9:02 and 9:07 p.m., the user “waterisblue” called the Nex-Tech Help Desk and asked for an explanation as to why the advertisement was rejected. The call was disconnected when the technician tried to look up the notes and the website was down. Another DDOS attack occurred between 9:18 and 9:37 p.m. that prevented customers from accessing the website. “Waterisblue” called the help desk again during this time. During the call, the user asked where the Nex-Tech websites were located, where the company was located, and left a call back number of xxx-xxx-1011.

         On March 31, a third attack occurred that prevented customers from accessing the website for one hour and resulted in a loss of revenue to Nex-Tech. Two more attacks occurred that day against the Nex-Tech classifieds site. Two attacks also occurred against Nex-Tech's corporate website which resulted in Nex-Tech being unable to “monitor circuits and network equipment for many public safety entities (hospitals, law enforcement, fire stations, etc.) and medical alert customers.” (Doc. 25, Exh. A at ¶ 14bb.) On April 6, the Nex-Tech Classifieds' server was accessed by an electronic device accessing the internet from the Library IP.

         Upon a search of Nex-Tech's records, it was discovered that user “larnedseller” listed the contact number of xxx-xxx-1011, during a November 2014 communication with another user. The account “larnedseller” was created in November 2014. The user “larnedseller” also provided the address of 714 1/2 Topeka Street in Larned, Kansas, in order to facilitate an exchange of items purchased from “larnedseller.” Ridgway determined that the 714 ½ Topeka address was owned by John Golightley. John Golightley's driver's license listed a home address on Mark Avenue in Larned. Defendant's driver's license, dated March 3, 2017, listed an address of 714 1/2 Topeka. The distance between the Library and the Topeka residence is approximately 100 yards. The distance between the Courthouse and the Topeka residence is approximately 200 yards.

         Additionally, on June 29, 2011, Robert Blackwell, previously an officer with the Edwards County Sheriff's Office, completed a written statement concerning Defendant. In that statement, Blackwell stated that Defendant informed him that he had built a device, “best described as a make-shift satellite dish, capable of broadcasting a wireless signal out an incredibly long range. [Defendant] explained he used this device to access the” County's Courthouse wireless network. (Id. at ¶ 27b.)

         Judge Braun authorized the search warrant. The items to be seized included the following:

1. Computers, laptops, cellular phones, tablets, or other mobile devices capable of being used to access the internet based Nex-Tech Classified system;
2. Hard disk drives, compact disks (CDs), digital video disks (DVDs), flash memory drives, or any other digital storage medium capable of storing data relating to the to [sic] access of the internet based Nex-Tech Classified system;
3. Papers, documents, receipts, or other written instruments tending to demonstrate purchases, sales, or ownership equipment used to access of [sic] the internet ...

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