FARGO - U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Erickson has denied a Wahpeton man's request to throw out a search of his apartment that uncovered 747 VHS tapes containing images of child pornography.

Benjamin Joseph Hager argued earlier this summer that a November 2010 search of his residence was illegal because investigators exceeded the scope of the signed warrant.

Hager, 37, has pleaded not guilty to two federal charges of sexually exploiting children.

But, in an opinion released Wednesday, Erickson ruled in favor of federal prosecutors - agreeing investigators had probable cause to search the tapes and acted in "good faith."

The search of Hager's apartment last year stems from Hager's ties to a Detroit-area man, who awaits sentencing on similar charges for using his four under-age daughters to create and distribute sexually explicit images.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

Hager and Robert John Mueller had traded emails and shared images over a peer-to-peer network, authorities said.

When investigators searched Hager's tapes to seek evidence of Mueller's crimes, they uncovered other images containing child pornography.

Those images, which amount to as much as 4,400 hours of tape, form the basis of evidence for prosecutors' case against Hager in North Dakota.

Hager is being held until his trial, which is scheduled for October. If convicted, Hager faces decades in federal prison.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541