Defense wants Middletown man’s pacemaker evidence tossed in arson case

Defense wants Middletown man’s pacemaker evidence tossed in arson case

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Middletown Division of Fire investigates the scene of a fire that broke out around 6:30 a.m. Sept. 19, 2016, in the 1900 block of Court Donegal and caused approximately $400,000 in damages. RICK McCRABB/STAFF

Pacemaker data that helped get a Middletown man indicted for arson was a violation of his rights, defense attorneys say.

Ross Compton, 59, was indicted in January on felony charges of aggravated arson and insurance fraud for allegedly starting a fire Sept. 19 at his Court Donegal house. The blaze caused nearly $400,000 in damages.

Middletown detectives said Compton gave statements that were “inconsistent” with the evidence at the fire.

Compton, who has extensive medical problems, including an artificial heart implant that uses an eternal pump, told police he was asleep when the fire started. When he saw the fire, he told police he packed some belongings in a suitcase and bags, broke out the glass of his bedroom window with a cane, and threw the bags and suitcase outside before taking them to his car.

So police got a search warrant for all electronic data stored in Compton’s cardiac pacing device, according to court records obtained by the Journal-News.

The data taken from Compton’s pacemaker included his heart rate, pacer demand, and cardiac rhythms before, during and after the fire.

In the court documents, a cardiologist who reviewed that data determined, “it is highly improbable Mr. Compton would have been able to collect, pack and remove the number of items from the house, exit his bedroom window and carry numerous large and heavy items to the front of his residence during the short period of time he has indicated due to his medical conditions.”

Defense attorney Glenn Rossi has filed a motion to suppress the pacemaker evidence, stating the search was an invasion of Compton’s constitutional rights and unreasonable seizure of his private information.

Compton’s information was gathered Oct. 14 at Atrium Medical Center, where his “private medical information stored in a pacemaker was seized by law enforcement,” Rossi said in the court document.

“(Compton) was detained for over four hours during this seizure. His phone was confiscated and he was forbidden from seeking the aid of legal counsel. Additionally, (Compton) was threatened with arrest should he attempt to leave the medical center,” the defense motion, obtained by the Journal-News, states.

Rossi said the seizure violated Compton’s constitutional rights to privacy and in signing the search warrant, the judge lacked “sufficient information about the cardiologist in making the decision to sign the search warrant.”

“There can be no greater expectation of privacy than in the beating of one’s own heart,” Rossi said in the motion.

Assistant Butler County Prosecutor Jon Marshall wrote the defense is “mistaken” in his response to the motion.

Marshall also said higher courts have upheld when “warrant has been issued and individual no longer has an expectation of privacy in their blood or even stomach content, which are more intrusive that simply retreating data from (the) defendant’s pacemaker.”

Probable cause for the pacemaker data was established because there was reason to suspect Compton was involved in setting the fire, Marshall said.

“The fire was set from the outside from multiple points, thus, a crime has been committed. The defendant called 911 to report the fire, and within 6 minutes officers were on the scene. Withing these six minutes, defendant who has major health issues, claimed that he was able to break the bedroom window with a walking stick, retrieve his personal items, place them in suitcases and then place the suitcases in defendant’s vehicle,” Marshall wrote in the motion.

Compton is free on bond.

A hearing on the motion to suppress will take place next month.

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