WEST OCEAN CITY — Legal posturing in the federal child sex solicitation case against a West Ocean City resident and business owner picked up steam this week with the defense attempting to suppress evidence collected from the defendant and statements he made in a post-arrest interview.
In March, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland announced a federal grand jury had indicted David Edward Weatherholtz, 55, of West Ocean City, on charges of producing and possessing child pornography and attempting to entice minors to engage in sex. According to the six-count indictment, from 2008 to 2012, Weatherholtz, owner of the O.C. Jamboree in West Ocean City and also a music instructor, coerced a minor to engage in sex to produce images of child pornography.
The indictment further alleges from Dec. 3 to Dec. 16, 2014 Weatherholtz used electronic mail and text messaging to attempt to coerce minors to engage in sex. Also on Dec. 16, Weatherholtz was found in possession of a computer hard drive and laptop containing child pornography.
Weatherholtz was charged initially in Worcester County following his arrest last December, but he was indicted in U.S. District Court in late March by a federal grand jury. Just weeks into what will likely be a lengthy process, defense attorneys this week filed two separate motions attempting to suppress evidence collected leading up to and after his arrest in December.
The first motion filed this week seeks to suppress tangible evidence including the computers, laptops and cell phones Weatherholtz allegedly used to entice and coerce his victims. The motion asserts the search warrants used to obtain the various computers and phones were flawed, making anything that was collected after their execution illegal. Essentially, the motion asserts law enforcement officers posing as a 13-year-old boy constitutes entrapment, making the search warrants illegal.
“The search warrants issued in the case were authorized in violation of the Four Amendment because the affidavits underlying the warrants did not establish probable cause to believe a crime would be found at the location,” the motion reads. “In addition, the decision to seek the warrants was initiated by law enforcement posing as a minor. Accordingly, the warrants were tainted by the prior illegalities including but not limited to unlawful entrapment activities and the fruits of the unlawful law enforcement activities must be suppressed.”
In a larger sense, the motion to suppress evidence collected from the various computers, hard drives and cell phones suggests the search warrants were flawed and unconstitutional.
“Moreover, the affidavit was so deficient that no objectively reasonable officer would have relied in good faith on the legality of the search warrant,” the motion reads. “Mr. Weatherholtz accordingly requests that this court issue a pre-trial ruling barring the government from admitting at trial in this case evidence obtained in violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment.”
Last Dec. 3, Worcester County Bureau of Investigation (WCBI) detectives began an investigation into a suspected online child solicitation case in West Ocean City. WCBI detectives made contact with a suspect, later identified Weatherholtz. During the investigation, WCBI detectives identified themselves as a 13-year-old juvenile male. Over the course of the next two weeks, Weatherholtz allegedly engaged in sexually explicit conversations and made numerous references to other sexual encounters he had with underage boys. Weatherholtz made arrangements to meet the alleged juvenile and was taken into custody by WCBI detectives.
Following the arrest in December, another alleged victim came forward in January with information about an alleged incident several years ago. The victim told detectives when he was a juvenile several years ago Weatherholtz gave him music lessons and allegedly sexually assaulted him.
Following his arrest in December, Weatherholtz was interviewed by detectives and allegedly made statements that supported the case against him. However, defense attorneys asserted this week the statements were made under duress.
“The defendant moves for the suppression of the evidence on the grounds that the statement was potentially obtained in violation of the Fifth Amendment and Miranda,” the motion reads. “As a result of the constitutional violations alleged herein, the defendant requests that this court enter an order suppressing any and all statements obtained from the defendant on or about Dec. 16, 2014.”