YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Prosecutors with the office of the state Attorney General filed their opposition Thursday to a motion by attorneys for a former Poland school resource officer to have any evidence from his cellphone suppressed.
The motion, which was filed in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court before Judge John Durkin, said investigators seized Steve Kent’s phone on June 8 without a warrant because they were afraid he would erase evidence of any crimes.
The phone was not searched until June 9, when investigators obtained a warrant, wrote Kara Keating, senior assistant attorney general for the Attorney General’s Office.
Kent, who is also an Austintown trustee, was indicted in April by a grand jury on three counts of sexual battery and an additional charge of tampering with evidence.
Kent worked as a resource officer since 2013 before investigators received a complaint on June 7 that Kent had been involved in a sexual relationship with a student at Poland High School. Township police asked the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation to handle the case to avoid any conflicts of interest.
A hearing on the motion to suppress is set for Feb. 14. A trial date has not been set yet.
Kent’s attorney John Juhasz filed the motion to suppress Jan. 23, saying in his motion that investigators took Kent’s phone without a warrant, a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizures.
Keating said in her response that investigators took the phone because they were afraid Kent might erase evidence before a warrant could be obtained. She included case law in her response that supported her argument that law enforcement could seize the phone without a warrant until they could get one to search it.
Keating included three courts of appeals in Ohio that upheld the seizure of a cell phone without a warrant in similar circumstances.
She added that the phone was not searched until the warrant was received.
A notice of intent to use evidence in the case file said investigators reviewed both Kent’s phone and the phone of the student who made the accusation. The motion noted the victim gave investigators consent to search her phone.
The notice of intent said investigators found evidence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and LifeForce 360.
Keating also noted in her response that Kent supplied his passcode for the phone voluntarily, and he did not make any statements to investigators before the phone was seized.