Tag Archives: FBI

Covid 19 Virus impacts investigations.

The impact of the covid virus on investigations of all kinds is significant. We just can’t safely call on witnesses in person or review records in the ways that we used to do.

However, it was recently brought to my attention that polygraphers are being impacted. According to a very experienced source who administered polygraph (lie detector) tests for the FBI, that agency is suspending polygraph testing until as least the end of the year.

It was determined that polygraphers and subjects cannot safely be in tight quarters without masks for extended periods of time.

Law enforcement has long relied on polygraph results when it suits their purpose, including vetting recruits, while at the same time consistently fighting the admission of polygraph tests that support the defense.

For the time being it looks like both sides will be less likely to even offer the option.

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Hair Analysis Usefulness was consistently overstated by F. B. I. analysts and those they trained for state and local agencies.


The above link is the re-post of a Washington Post article regarding an audit of the Department of Justice and the F. B. I. that shows that hair analysis results were constantly overstated in favor of the prosecution.
“What went wrong? The Post continues“Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far.”
This audit now calls into question bite mark analysis and other forensic evidence.  The article  cites examples in which a dog hair was falsely represented at trial as a hair from the defendant to achieve a conviction and another in which a bite mark expert used the plaster mold taken of the accused’s  teeth to plant a bite on a corpse.
In the Leila Fowler case, the F. B. I. sought to condemn the 12 year old defendant based on the their analysis of the 911 call.  This was done without an prior outside review of the method and despite the fact that none of the phone calls reviewed to develop the method involved anyone younger than 19.
Stay tuned for more revelations in this area.

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F. B. I. rejects Freedom of Information Act requests for the investigation file in Leila Fowler murder case.

On January 23, 2018 oral arguments for the appeal filed by the defense in the Leila Fowler murder case were heard by the Appeals Panel for the 3rd Judicial District of California.

On January 26, 2018 I drafted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the FBI for the contents of their investigation filed in Leila Fowler murder case.  As the people of Valley Springs will recall, the FBI was all over this case, interviewing neighbors, interrogating Isiah Fowler, mowing and searching the area behind the scene of the crime and analyzing the call made to Isiah by the 911 operator.

The defense team of Mark Reichel and Steve Plesser repeatedly requested the contents of the FBI as part of discovery and were told by the prosecution there was nothing to provide.  The defense was particularly interested in the interview summary of a particular individual who refused to talk with the defense.  This person emphatically told us that we could read what he told the FBI.  That person remains unaccounted for at the time of the murder.  This person’s identity will remain as Witness X for the time being.

In my FOIA request, I asked for the contents of the file generally and more specifically for a list of persons interviewed and the summaries of those interviews.  I also asked specifically for anything dealing with Witness X.

Much to my amazement, on 2/15/18 I received a letter from the FBI in Winchester, VA.  This letter was postmarked 2/12/18, but was actually dated 2/15/18.  That did seem rather odd.  What did not seem odd is that the request for information regarding Witness X was specifically rejected based upon a variety of third party exemptions.  Therefore, Witness X remains unaccounted for at the time of the murder.  It should be noted that the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department was made aware of this person being unaccounted for by at least two other witnesses and they never contacted Witness X, or if they did, there is no record of Witness X in the files presented as part of their discovery.

On 2/20/18 I found a second letter from the same FBI office in my PO Box.  This letter rejected my FOIA request for the Fowler investigation file in general.  It again cited third party exemptions as the reason.

The people of Valley Springs know full well that the FBI worked this case, but the defense has consistently been denied access to investigation details from FBI files.  We will continue to pursue this information, but in the meantime the community impacted by this crime deserves to know that the information culled from their interviews continues to be kept from the defense.

If the appeal heard by the Appellate Court for the 3rd district is favorable to the defense and the case is remanded, we will continue to pursue this information in general and as to Witness X in particular.



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FBI releases composite sketches in the Sheri Papini kidnapping case.

The FBI just released these sketches for the two women who allegedly kidnapped Sheri Papini while she was out on a run in Shasta County on November 2, 2016.  Ms. Papini was found weeks later bound to a post on the side of a road in Yolo County.

Ms. Papini was reported missing by her husband who tracked her cell phone to a location where her phone and the ear buds were neatly placed on the ground.  The cord for the buds was coiled up and stacked on the phone.

The presence of masks on the sketches of the two suspects certainly makes a positive identification more difficult, but if you have any information to share, please contact the authorities as instructed in the FBI release.

Papini_2017-10-25-10-47-01 (1)

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Entrapment covered up by the F. B. I.?

The following is taken from the KCRA Channel 3 website regarding the Eco Terrorism trial of Eric McDavid.  The federal government was either intentionally or unintentionally in possession of documents that helped prove the defense’s case that McDavid was a nerdy kid who was trying lured into an alleged conspiracy to commit “Eco-Terrorism” through a romantic involvement with a female F.B.I. operative.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) —A man who was convicted of plotting to blow up the Nimbus Dam on the American River, in addition to other government targets, was ordered to be released from jail Thursday, according to the defendant’s attorney.

Eric McDavid’s sentence was vacated in federal court in Sacramento after McDavid pleaded guilty to conspiring to destroy a government institution, according to the U.S. District Attorney.

McDavid, of Foresthill, and two others were arrested in 2006 on charges of trying to blow up the Nimbus Dam, which lies on the border of Folsom and Rancho Cordova.

McDavid was convicted in that case, and his appeals were exhausted.

On Sept. 27, 2007, McDavid was convicted of conspiring to destroy various targets, including the United States Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics in Placerville, with fire or explosives, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office.

McDavid was sentenced to 235 months in prison for ecoterrorism.

After his conviction and sentence, McDavid filed an appeal and motion attacking the prosecution on a variety of grounds.

That motion tipped off the government that some documents were unintentionally not given to the McDavid’s defense team during the trial.

Those documents were handed over to the defense soon after they were discovered.

The U.S. District Attorney said even though the documents do not necessarily show McDavid committed a crime, it could be possible that without them, the court would ask for a retrial.

However, McDavid’s attorney told KCRA 3 the newly released documents support the defense’s argument that McDavid was entrapped through romance by an FBI informant.

At the parties’ joint request on Thursday, the U.S. District court judge vacated McDavid’s original conviction and allowed him to enter a guilty plea of a lesser charge, which carried a reduced penalty.

The judge then sentenced him to nine years, which he has already served while awaiting trial.

The U.S. District Attorney said the government decided not to retry the case because both parties were in agreement because of the cost associated with a retrial.


You can also see a brief interview with McDavid’s attorney, Mark J. Reichel, at the following Sacramento Bee link.


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Stuff I sometimes wish I had, but I’m glad I don’t.

The Huffington Post reports in this article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/05/dea-surveillance-cover-up_n_3706207.html?ir=Politics&utm_campaign=080513&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Alert-politics&utm_content=Title that the DEA has a Special Operations Division (SOD) that collects tons of information into a database of roughly one billion items to establish and share tips and evidence among other agencies, including the NSA.  Read the article to get all the details because on summary on my part will not do it justice.

One of the things the article discusses is the creation of “parallel construction.”  According to the article,

“It’s just like laundering money – you work it backwards to make it clean,” said Finn Selander, a DEA agent from 1991 to 2008 and now a member of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which advocates legalizing and regulating narcotics.

Some defense lawyers and former prosecutors said that using “parallel construction” may be legal to establish probable cause for an arrest. But they said employing the practice as a means of disguising how an investigation began may violate pretrial discovery rules by burying evidence that could prove useful to criminal defendants. 

Burying the source of evidence means that defendants may not be able to investigate its veracity.  If the source is an informant, a defendant cannot delve into the motivation of the informant.  I can tell you that from the standpoint of someone working on the defense side of things this can be a real problem.

There are many days when I wish I could access phone records with just a few key strokes.  However, I can get something through public records, a witness volunteering information or the issuance of a subpoena, I can’t violate someone’s rights and when you score that tidbit of information that has meaning in a case you get a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

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Expectation Management – Why search results can’t be guaranteed. (Part 1)

Before you begin your own search or retain someone to search on your behalf, you need to know that success cannot be guaranteed.  If you have an unlimited budget, the odds of success (success being defined not only as finding a person or thing that you are looking for, but also making contact with that person or thing) are greatly improved.  However, given that most of us will be working with a limited budget the likelihood that our search will result in complete success is reduced.

The first reason you may not have success is due to the fact that the person or thing you are looking for can’t be found using only a computer and telephone or it doesn’t exist.  Among those things not likely to exist are hidden pockets of wealth such as real property, hidden bank accounts and stock portfolios.  More often than not, a client’s belief that such things must exist is based on wishful or spiteful thinking.  If an ex-spouse, ex-partner or ex-business partner took off with cash, the cash is more than likely spent, not stashed.

Sometimes people cannot be found because they are “off the gird.”  In this case, its the information grid.  Whether intentionally or not, people may not show up through basic search techniques because they just aren’t leaving a paper trail and they are not utilizing any of the more familiar social networks.  If they do not buy a house, rent an apartment, buy or rent a car or otherwise establish credit, they may not show with any current information.  If they live with others, but do appear on a lease or mortgage, they may not show up anywhere.  Even basic white pages searches are less productive than they once were because so many people rely exclusively on their cell phones.  (Mobile phones for our European readers.)

I had one case that took 2 and 1/2 years to find the subject largely because he just stopped living in a way that left much of a trail and he had fairly common name. (See the upcoming post on information to collect before you search) In case you are wondering if I was slacking off, the FBI didn’t find him at all.  That does happen with regularity, particularly when a person makes a concerted effort to live “off the grid.”

For all the reasons stated above, young people are difficult to track even if they use Facebook or any other social network.  If they have a common name, you may have to try to work your way through many hundreds of possible matches on Facebook alone.  If you are hiring someone to do the search the meter is running and that part of the search alone could take a great many hours. Teenagers and people in their early twenties can be very difficult to track until they start applying for credit or start their own businesses.

When starting a search, you must keep in mind that the possibility exists that the subject of your search cannot be found, at least for now.

Next:  Why search results can’t be guaranteed. (Part 2)

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