DOVER, Del. — The Delaware Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the conviction of former pediatrician Earl Bradley, who is serving life in prison for sexually abusing scores of patients over more than a decade.
In a 22-page ruling, the court said Bradley’s appeal challenging a search warrant that police used to seize homemade videos of his sexual assaults was without merit. Writing for the court, Justice Henry duPont Ridgely said police acted properly in executing a search warrant at Bradley’s medical office in Lewes in 2009.
Bradley’s attorneys argued that the warrant did not allow police to search an outbuilding where they found computer flash drives containing videos of the sexual assaults. They also argued that the warrant allowed only a limited search for medical files on eight patients, not a general search of the entire property.
“This was not a general, exploratory search prohibited by the United States and the Delaware Constitutions,” Ridgely wrote.
Bradley, 59, was convicted last year by a judge who viewed more than 13 hours of videos showing sex crimes against more than 80 victims, most of them toddlers. He waived his right to a jury trial after the judge denied a motion to suppress the video evidence because it had been illegally seized.
Defense attorney Robert Goff argued to the Supreme Court last month that police used the warrant to search not just for medical files, but for child pornography, which they were prevented from doing a year earlier after a previous search warrant was denied.
Goff said police offered no evidence in the search warrant affidavit that Bradley kept images of patients in digital form as part of their medical files. The defense also argued that police searched all four buildings on the property, although the warrant mentioned only two buildings — the main office building and a white outbuilding behind it. The videos were found in an outbuilding that had a distinctive black-and-white checkerboard pattern on its front facade and which defense attorneys claim was not described in the warrant.
While police recovered paper files for seven of the eight patients listed in the search warrant from the main office, the Supreme Court said it was reasonable for them to continue the search in other buildings and on computers and digital storage devices for other files relating to the eight complainants. Ridgely said it was “common sense” to infer that a modern medical practice would keep at least some patient records in electronic format.
He also wrote that the trial judge’s decision that the checkerboard-facade building was in fact the white outbuilding described in the warrant was “not clearly erroneous.”
The Supreme Court also concluded that any defect in the search of the two other buildings not described in the warrant was immaterial because no evidence collected from them was introduced at trial.
Attorney General Beau Biden said in a prepared statement that he was grateful for the court’s “thoughtful and well-crafted decision.”
Defense attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.