Judge denies defense’s request to suppress evidence in Gwaltney case

Published 10:43 am Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mark Gwaltney

A Criminal Court judge denied a request last week to suppress evidence in the case of a county man charged with sexually abusing an 8-month-old infant.
Mark Alan Gwaltney, 50, of the Happy Valley community, is scheduled to stand trial later this month on two counts of aggravated rape of a child, one count of aggravated sexual battery and five counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor.
Gwaltney’s attorney, Gregory Norris, filed two motions with the court seeking to suppress evidence investigators acquired from an iPod that belongs to Gwaltney which allegedly contained videos of him sexually abusing the infant. In his motion, Norris also challenges the legality of officers performing a “warrantless arrest” on Gwaltney.
The charges against Gwaltney stem from an investigation that began on Oct. 31, 2015, after a man and woman reported to officers the woman’s teenage daughter had discovered videos on an iPod owned by Gwaltney that allegedly depicted him sexually abusing the couple’s 8-month-old infant son. Carter County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Investigator Michael Little said the man, woman, their son and her daughter were living in Gwaltney’s home at the time the incident took place.
Little said the teenage daughter asked Gwaltney if she could borrow his iPod and he allowed her to use it. The girl told officers while she was using the iPod she discovered the videos and used her phone to make a second-hand recording before returning the iPod to Gwaltney. The man and woman showed the second-hand video to officers who responded to the scene.
Little directed officers to located Gwaltney and take him into custody and also advised them he may be in possession of an iPod which could hold evidence in the case.
According to court documents, officers later located Gwaltney at the home of his wife in Johnson City. Officers placed him under arrest and he was transported to the Carter County Detention Center. Officers also located Gwaltney’s vehicle at the home.
During testimony at a preliminary hearing in the case, Little testified the vehicle could not be secured so he directed officers to have it towed to the Carter County Sheriff’s Office impound lot where it could be secured while investigators obtained a search warrant for it. During an inventory of the vehicle prior to towing, Little said officers located an iPod matching the description given by the girl. The iPod was then secured as evidence.
Little said he then secured a search warrant to search through the contents of the iPod as well as Gwaltney’s home. During the search of the iPod, Little said the videos reported by the teenage girl were found and reviewed.
In his motion to suppress evidence and his Memorandum of Law and Argument to support the motion, Norris challenges Gwaltney’s warrantless arrest, saying the man’s right to a probable cause determination was not upheld and also stating because Gwaltney was in the private residence of his wife he was Constitutionally protected from a warrantless arrest.
Following what Norris said was the “unconstitutional arrest” of his client, he asserts in the motion that officers conducted an “illegal ‘inventory’ search of (Gwaltney’s) vehicle, with the intention to recover evidence.”
Norris said in his motions and memorandums to the court that since both the arrest and search of Gwaltney’s vehicle violated law the court must suppress any evidence collected from the illegal search, which would include the videos retrieved from the iPod.
On Thursday, Judge Lisa Rice, who is presiding over the case, denied both motions to suppress by Norris on Gwaltney’s behalf and ruled the evidence will be admissible at trial.
Gwaltney is scheduled to stand trial on August 23 and 24 in Carter County Criminal Court. No further court appearances between now and the trial date have been scheduled at this time.

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