Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session Date: May 9, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Bedford County No. 17746 Forest A.
Durard, Jr., Judge
a bench trial, the Defendant, Michael Donald Spray, a former
dispatcher for the Bedford County Sheriff's Department,
was convicted in the Bedford County Circuit Court of eight
counts of sexual exploitation of a minor involving over 100
images, a Class B felony, and two counts of sexual
exploitation of a minor involving over 50 images, a Class C
felony, and was sentenced to an effective term of sixteen
years in the Department of Correction. The sole issue the
Defendant raises on appeal is whether the trial court erred
in denying his motion to suppress the images on the basis
they were discovered as a result of an illegal, warrantless
search by a fellow employee of the sheriff's department.
Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit
H. Norton, III, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Michael Donald Spray.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; Robert J.
Carter, District Attorney General; and Michael D. Randles,
Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State
E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
Norma McGee Ogle and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.
E. GLENN, JUDGE
March 28, 2013, the Defendant was working as a civilian
employee dispatcher for the Bedford County Sheriff's
Department when a fellow dispatcher, Jonathan Evans,
discovered pornographic images of children on the
Defendant's cell phone. Mr. Evans reported what he had
seen to a sergeant with the Bedford County Sheriff's
Department, and a search warrant was subsequently obtained
for the phone. After a detective had performed a cursory
examination of the cell phone, which confirmed what Mr. Evans
had reported, the Defendant was arrested and transported to
the Shelbyville Police Department. The Defendant, who signed
a waiver of his Miranda rights, told interviewing
officers that he had downloaded similar images onto a laptop
computer in his home and signed a written consent for the
officers to seize and search the computer. The forensic
examination of the cell phone and computer uncovered over
1000 images that appeared to depict children engaged in
sexual activity or simulated sexual activity that was
patently offensive. Consequently, on November 18, 2013, the
Bedford County Grand Jury returned an indictment charging the
Defendant with ten separate counts of sexual exploitation of
a minor involving over 100 images.
February 28, 2014, the Defendant filed a motion to suppress
the evidence and to dismiss all the charges, arguing, among
other things, that the initial photographs discovered on his
cell phone were obtained in violation of his Fourth Amendment
right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and
that the subsequent photographs and videos discovered on his
cell phone and computer were tainted by the illegality of the
initial search. We will summarize only those portions of the
evidentiary hearing that are pertinent to the issue the
Defendant raises on appeal.
April 10, 2014 suppression hearing, Jonathan Evans testified
that in March 2013, he was employed as a dispatcher for the
Bedford County Sheriff's Department, where his duties
involved answering the phone, looking up warrants, and
"run[ning] tags." His work shift on March 27-28,
2013, lasted from 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., when he was
relieved by the Defendant. He went home, retrieved a movie he
had borrowed from a city police officer, and returned to the
sheriff's department, where he began watching the movie
in the lounge with the city police officer and several
deputies of the sheriff's department. At some point, the
Defendant joined them in the lounge and began watching the
movie with them.
approximately 2:30 a.m., the telephone rang and Mr. Evans
offered to answer it. Although he could have answered the
call on the phone in the lounge, he instead went to the
dispatch area, where he handled the call away from the noise
of the movie. After hanging up, he noticed the
Defendant's cell phone, which was plugged into a charger,
and decided to "play around with [the Defendant]"
by taking a picture of himself and setting it as the
phone's wallpaper. He picked up the phone, which was not
password protected, touched the center button to display the
phone's wallpaper, found the camera icon, and took a
photograph of himself. However, when he began trying to set
the photograph as the phone's wallpaper he was unable to
find it and therefore "went looking for it." During
that search, he "found what [he] found, "
"realized what it was, ...