BRENTWOOD — A judge decided that creating a "mirror" copy of a hard drive did not constitute an unlawful seizure by police investigating a Plaistow man charged with abusing his girlfriend's 3-year-old son and recording videos of his so-called coaching sessions with the boy.
The decision allows prosecutors to use the videos against Roland Dow, 27, of Plaistow when he goes on trial Oct. 7 on charges of first- and second-degree assault for allegedly beating and burning 3-year-old James Nicholson. He suffered a "significant brain injury" and first- and second-degree burns on his body during the course of several days in November.
His mother, Jessica Linscott, 24, began serving a 2½ to seven years in July after pleading guilty to witness tampering and endangering the welfare of a child. The videos seized by police include episodes where Dow allegedly coached Nicholson with what to say to a state child advocacy worker when asked about being spanked or yelled at.
Defense lawyer Tom Gleason argued that Dow's constitutional rights were violated because police searched a "mirror" copy of the hard drive on Jan. 7 nearly two months after a pair of search warrants were used to search the couple's home, and seize a home computer.
Judge Marguerite Wageling concluded in an order issued Friday the examination of the copied hard drive was legally permissible. She cited federal case law that allows investigators time to comb through thousands of records before possibly seizing potential evidence.
"A search involving a hard drive is analogous to an investigation requiring the seizure of voluminous business records in a so-called paper case," Wageling said. "Because such cases may require the inspection of tens of thousands of documents, courts have held that such documents may be seized wholesale and examined off-site."
Dow could potentially face decades in prison if he is convicted on all charges. Linscott is expected to be called as a state witness at her boyfriend's; however, her plea agreement did not require her to testify.