The Hurdles Facing Law Enforcement and the Steps Officers Will Take to Investigate, Collect Electronic Evidence and Identify Victims of Dr. Nikita Levy’s Patient Privacy Invasion
This past week, Marylanders were stunned and sickened by news that Johns Hopkins’ gynecologist, Dr. Nikita Levy, allegedly used still cameras and video recording devices to capture surreptitiously his gynecological examinations of potentially hundreds of his patients, and that he allegedly collected massive amounts of those images and videos on multiple media storage devices (computers, thumb drives, etc.). What Dr. Levy did with these images is not yet clear. Local, state and federal law enforcement have begun a large-scale cooperative investigation, and, according to reports, officers have searched Dr. Levy’s home and office, seizing multiple media storage devices pursuant to search warrants issued by Baltimore County and Baltimore City Judges. But in the Dr. Levy case, which involves electronic surveillance and electronic privacy crimes, potential child pornography, voyeurism, and invasion of the privacy of hundreds and hundreds of women, law enforcement faces obstacles far more complex than a physician sexually assaulting one or more patients.
In this case, the reported amount of electronic evidence is remarkable. Sadly, the sheer number of potential victims indicates there may be an enormous quantity of illegally obtained, sexually explicit images of hundreds of women, including minors and adults. In addition to the routine steps that an invasion of privacy or a sexual assault investigation might involve (such as interviewing family, friends, employees and co-workers), in this electronic invasion of privacy case, officers are likely in the midst of the following steps:
• All electronic devices that Dr. Levy owned or had access to are being identified, seized and searched by computer forensic experts—But there are unique complications to the Dr. Levy case because of patient privacy laws, and because Dr. Levy’s electronic records may be intertwined with Johns Hopkins’ electronic data systems;
• The digital devices seized (which likely include computers, laptops, cell phones, I-Pads, hard-drives, thumb drives) are being searched, pursuant to search warrant, and the evidence collected is being cataloged;
• Electronic data files and digital images not related to the investigation will need to be segregated so not as to violate Constitutional privacy protections;
• Law enforcement experts who specialize in victim identification will be reviewing the electronic evidence to identify victims;
• Officers likely have contacted and/or issued search warrants to all of Dr. Levy’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Cellular Service Providers (for both home and office), to investigate Dr. Levy’s online Internet behaviors, Dr. Levy’s geolocation cell data, and the persons with whom Dr. Levy was communicating. Because of the nature of Internet technology and the data retention practices of most ISPs, Dr. Levy’s various ISPs’ records likely hold a host of information critical to law enforcement’s investigation. Officers likely will seek the following information from Dr. Levy’s home and office ISPs:
o What websites did Dr. Levy visit?
o How much time did Dr. Levy spend online?
o Was Dr. Levy visiting pornography sites?
o Was Dr. Levy visiting child pornography sites?
o Did Dr. Levy use peer-to-peer software or participate in online image and video file sharing sites?
o Did Dr. Levy sell or share the alleged electronic images and videos of his patients?
o If Dr. Levy did sell or share the alleged images, to whom did he sell or with whom did he share such images or videos?
o Were there others involved in or communicating electronically with Dr. Levy about his alleged criminal conduct?
o Did Dr. Levy engage in other suspicious online behaviors?
• As the evidence is carefully collected, catalogued, and victims identified, officers will likely contact victims and work with Johns Hopkins to ensure patient/victim notification while at the same time protecting further violations of patient privacy;
• Officers will also be combing through all of Dr. Levy’s electronic communications to see if there are others involved in or aware of his alleged crimes.
It may seem like a herculean task, but through the combined efforts of the FBI, Maryland State Police, and Baltimore County and City Police, their excellent computer forensic resources, victim identification experts, and thanks to the permanent nature of many forms of electronic evidence and Internet activity, officers ultimately will fully uncover the scope and extent of Dr. Levy’s actions.
Anne McKenna, Chair of STSW’s Internet and Privacy Practice Group, SILVERMCKENNA, is co-author of Wiretapping & Eavesdropping: Surveillance in the Internet Age, 3rd Ed. Fishman & McKenna (West 2010); and Jones on Evidence, 7th Ed., Fishman & McKenna (West), both of which have been cited repeatedly by federal and state courts throughout the country. Anne has close to two decades of complex civil litigation experience, and she is one of the nation’s leading and most-cited experts in Internet, computer and cellular electronic surveillance law and privacy law.
Silverman | Thompson | Slutkin | White | LLC (STSW) is a firm nationally-renowned for its impressive array of veteran civil and criminal attorneys and its broad range of practice areas.