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Sean Spillum appeals child porn possession conviction to ND Supreme Court

Sean Taylor Spillum, 23, Minot, is asking the North Dakota Supreme Court for a new trial in his Class C felony possession of child pornography case.

Spillum was found guilty by a jury of the offense in February and Judge Doug Mattson sentenced to four years in prison and ordered him to register as a sex offender.

According to court documents, Spillum’s defense attorney is arguing that the judge should have suppressed evidence from Spillum’s third interview with police. Spillum spoke voluntarily with police on two occasions. Before the third interview, police and an investigator from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation obtained a signed arrest warrant for Spillum but did not immediately arrest him or read him his rights and interviewed him for some time without informing him of the warrant. Spillum’s defense attorney states in a written argument that during this third interview the officers “became hostile” and “pressured (Spillum) to admit things, cut off his answers, and wouldn’t allow him to explain what had happened” and a reasonable person would have believed he was not free to leave that interview. Prior to obtaining the arrest warrant, the officers had obtained search warrants and discovered evidence of the crime on his electronics.

Spillum had claimed that he had exchanged videos with another person and believed the file contained legal pornography and that he didn’t realize that there was child pornography on some of the video until the fourth time he looked at it. He was upset and deleted the illegal images from his phone but didn’t delete it from Dropbox. He later tried to get into Dropbox to delete that part of the video but couldn’t access his account. In November 2018 the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children notified the Minot Police Department that Spillum had uploaded the illegal images to Dropbox in October 2018. He admitted to viewing some of the material that featured teenage girls.

Ward County Deputy State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz states in his written argument that there is no right to be arrested, Spillum was free to leave during the interviews and the evidence should not have been suppressed.

Oral arguments in the appeal are scheduled for Nov. 10 before the North Dakota Supreme Court in Bismarck.

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