A federal judge warned the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office during a hearing on Wednesday for wiping out what was left of his dashcam server after a “catastrophic” incident that resulted in the disappearance of 15 months of original dashcam video including those of the former Hamilton County Sheriff accused of crime Vice President Daniel Wilkey.
The sheriff’s office said they had no choice but to clear the server after an accident in January. The department said it had to continue storing agents’ video footage “which was still being generated on a daily basis and waiting to be uploaded” and that it could not afford to buy a completely new system.
US Magistrate Judge Christopher Steger said Wednesday he did not understand why the sheriff’s office would use the same server to store new data, but he stopped issuing sanctions against the county, although he compared the server’s situation to a crime scene. .
“It would appear that they would put the yellow tape around that server and not touch it until someone could do an autopsy,” said Steger. “I mean, hell, that’s what the sheriff’s departments always do in other situations.”
Steger used the analogy of a semi-trailer that went out of control and killed several people. But instead of preserving the truck so it can be inspected by accident retreaders, the truck company repairs it and puts it back into service.
“You can’t do this when a dispute is going on,” he said. “And it’s essentially what has been done.”
Steger said he was surprised that so many lawsuits had been filed that no one had problems with overriding what was left of the data. It made it “increasingly impossible for a forensic expert to try to figure out if it had been tampered with or if it had failed.”
The sheriff’s office has repeatedly stated that copies of many, if not all, of Wilkey’s videos have been preserved because they had already been downloaded for the Hamilton County district attorney’s office or for the home affairs unit of the sheriff’s office. And the reports filed by county attorneys at the federal court cataloging the remaining videos confirm much of that claim.
But while Wilkey’s videos may have been saved, other MEPs’ dashcam videos may be lost, even though the county faced multiple civil rights lawsuits as early as October and collective action in December, which would have had to warn him to preserve any evidence in his possession relating to Wilkey’s interactions with the public as an officer.
The videos of other MEPs would be relevant in both civil and criminal cases because, as pointed out by lawyer Rip Biggs, Wilkey’s dashcam sometimes does not show the meetings in their entirety and in at least one case, does not show any illegal behavior. In that case, the evidence came from the video of another MP who had already been downloaded before the accident.
Wilkey was indicted on 44 criminal charges, including six sex battery counts, two rape counts and nine official oppression counts. He also faces 10 federal lawsuits that accuse him of brutality and force a woman to be baptized during a stop, which Wilkey and her lawyer admitted, even though they claim the woman’s idea was baptized.
Three other MPs – Tyler McRae, Jacob Goforth and Bobby Brewer – are accused in civil cases of stopping while Wilkey committed the alleged crimes. They face no criminal charges.
In civil cases, attorneys Robin Flores, Howard Manis and Andrew Clarke noted that the videos they received show that Wilkey was wearing a powered on body microphone, but the audio in the videos does not reflect it.
Most of the deputies in the sheriff’s office don’t have body cameras. Instead, they have body microphones.
Sheriff’s office dashcam videos released in the past by the DA’s office in unrelated cases often include two separate videos showing the same footage but with different audio: one for in-car audio and another for body microphone .
Another problem raised by lawyers is that because they have copies of the second generation videos, specific data is missing. Such data, such as creation times and dates, would have been incorporated into the original videos and would have helped with authentication.
And since the sheriff’s office reformatted the server after it crashed, it made it “impossible for a real forensic examination of what happened to that server,” Manis told Steger.
Reformatting is the process of preparing a disk to use for new data by erasing all the information on a drive.
Also on Wednesday was a motion for sanctions against the county, but Steger denied it in an order filed on Friday. Steger said he didn’t want to be too heavy on his warnings because, “fortunately in circumstances and some fortuitous events”, it seems that much of the relevant video may have been preserved.
The plaintiffs asked for sanctions against the county after learning that he released newly found dashcam videos to the attorneys for the accused deputies and the district attorney’s office, but not to the attorneys for the plaintiffs until these attorneys asked for copies.
The plaintiffs had the impression that Steger had ordered the county during a hearing in March not to share the videos until they had finished cataloging the footage, according to their movement. They based their belief on county attorney Sharon Milling by asking Steger if he would agree with the county by providing footage without reviewing it, and Steger replied, “Well, no … The risk of doing it fragmentarily is that we’re not going to be able to understand exactly what was produced. “
In denying the motion, Steger said that the plaintiffs misunderstood the comment and that the ban on sharing relevant videos with co-defendants was never in his written order.
Sanctions could still be a possibility if Steger finds out that the evidence has been lost through negligence.
In the end, Steger said he wants data experts to select the information and make a final decision because “we can talk about it to death,” he said, but the only way to solve the problem is to involve the experts.
“A forensic investigation is needed,” he said. “We are at a crossroads here.”
Contact Rosana Hughes at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @Hughes Rosana.