BRENTWOOD — Police investigating the alleged assault of 3-year-old James Nicholson obtained a search warrant for his mother's computer after she and her boyfriend admitted to doctors that they did online research about his injuries, prosecutors said.
"Specifically, the word 'Googled' was used to describe the research conducted," Assistant Rockingham County Attorney Michael Zaino said in a court pleading, arguing that police had enough evidence to obtain the search warrant.
A superior court judge will soon decide whether the computer search that led to the discovery of what one prosecutor described as "horrifying" videos was legally justified.
Police found videos of Roland Dow, 27, of Plaistow, and his girlfriend, Jessica Linscott, 23, allegedly coaching the boy on what to say about his bruises and burns prior to an interview with a child advocacy worker on Oct. 23.
Dow is expected to go on trial this fall on charges that include first-degree assault, witness tampering and interception and disclosure of telecommunication.
Prosecutors asked a judge this week to consolidate all charges against Dow into one trial, while fighting the defense's first bid to have evidence in his case thrown out.
If allowed at trial, the videos will likely become a key piece of evidence against Dow, and possibly Linscott, the boy's mother, who is expected to go on trial later this month on related charges.
"The videos that are detailed in the affidavit are horrifying," Zaino said in a court motion. "They show that the defendant was aware of what was going on and the very severe nature of the victim's injuries. Nevertheless, the defendant chose to video record these events over three days rather than secure medical treatment."
Zaino argued that the injuries seen by police and medical personnel all over Nicholson's body were enough for investigators to obtain the search warrant, which led to discovery of the video.
"Several bruises were observed on the victim's face, forehead, cheek, buttocks, leg and back," Zaino said. "Burns were described on his fingers, wrist, and arm of varying degrees with redness and blistering. He also suffered loss of vision and subdural bruising, which was discovered during a surgery to drain blood and fluid from under the skin around his eyes."
Defense lawyer Tom Gleason argued earlier this month that police did not have enough probable cause to obtain a search warrant. He said that police discovered the videos after the search warrant essentially expired.
Zaino contends that police actually made a "mirror copy" of the hard drive when the search warrant was active, and reviewed its contents later to see what was on the computer.
"This is analogous to documenting a search of a house with a movie camera and later viewing the video after the return has been filed," he said in court papers. "The warrant authorized the seizure and search of the Dell computer."
Prosecutors say Nicholson was abused over the course of three days in November.
Dow and Linscott were apprehended Nov. 28 at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., on the run from allegations by doctors at Exeter Hospital that the boy had been abused.
They are both being held on $500,000 bail at local county jails.