A St. Croix man convicted of child sex crimes is arguing that federal investigators improperly searched his electronic devices, but prosecutors say he consented to the search and his 45-year prison sentence should stand, according to documents filed in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Gilroy Elcock was 41 years old in April 2014, when he first began abusing two girls, according to court records.
Prosecutors said Elcock, a musician also known by his stage name, Ragah El, filmed himself having sex with a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old, and the rapes stopped only after an acquaintance saw videos of the girls on Elcock’s cell phone and alerted their mother, who called police.
When V.I. Police contacted Elcock for an interview, they asked him to bring his cell phone and iPad, which he did. He signed a form consenting to a search of the devices, and officers reviewed them for evidence before turning them over to Homeland Security Investigations “pursuant to VIPD procedures,” according to a brief filed by prosecutors.
An initial search in 2014 did not yield any relevant evidence, but police provided a Homeland Security special agent with the devices again in March 2016, and he “discovered seven encrypted videos of Elcock” raping both underage girls, according to the brief.
Elcock’s attorneys argued that the evidence could not be used against him by prosecutors because he had consented only to police searching the devices — not Homeland Security investigators.
A federal judge rejected his arguments and Elcock went to trial in August 2017. When prosecutors called the Homeland Security special agent to testify about the videos he’d found, Elcock’s attorneys objected again and argued that too much time had passed between Elcock’s consent to the search of his electronic devices and the time the videos were discovered.
The court denied the motion and a jury found Elcock guilty of six counts of production of child pornography, one count of possession of child pornography, which are federal crimes and two territorial counts of first-degree aggravated rape.
Elcock, who has been jailed since his arrest in 2014, was sentenced in 2019 to 45 years behind bars and ordered to remain on supervised release for life. Elcock is continuing to fight that sentence in an appeal to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court, arguing that Homeland Security had no authority to search his devices.
While prosecutors say Elcock didn’t tell police that federal investigators could not search his devices, Elcock’s appellate attorney Renee Dowling rejected that argument. “The government now contends that the fault lies with Gilroy Elcock because he did not tell the Virgin Islands Police Department not to have law enforcement officers outside of the Virgin Islands Police Department search his electronic devices,” Dowling wrote in an appellate brief.
In addition, the search on March 16, 2016, that found the videos came nearly two years after Elcock signed the consent form, “a period which is not a reasonable time to conduct a search and thus the videos should have been suppressed,” according to the brief.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rhonda Williams-Henry argued that the prior court decisions were correct because Elcock should have assumed his consent extended to all law enforcement agents.
“When, as here, a defendant signs a consent form permitting an agency to search his property, a reasonable person would believe that consent extends to other agencies as well and, in any event, the consent to search negates the defendant’s expectation of privacy in the property,” she wrote.