The motion said that Chavez's computer and external hard drive had been accessed after he had been removed from his office in April of 2015, and that his iPhone data had not been preserved at all.
Court Motion Says Chain Of Custody Broken
Reynaldo Chavez’s Attorney Says Evidence Could Be Worthless
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
The Albuquerque Police Department and the city didn’t properly secure and preserve the computer, cell phone and external hard drive of its former records custodian, Reynaldo Chavez, and any information those devices hold is useless as evidence, Chavez’s attorney is alleging in new court documents.
Chavez, who was fired from APD in August 2015, has alleged in a lawsuit against the city that his APD computer, cell phone and external hard drive could contain evidence that would show he was directed by his superiors to deny or delay public information requests from lawyers, the public and the news media.
And while the city has maintained for more than a year that it had secured and preserved that data, it didn’t properly secure it, said a motion filed on Dec. 15 in Bernalillo County District Court by Chavez’s lawyer, Tom Grover.
The motion, which seeks monetary damages from the city, said that Chavez’s computer and external hard drive had been accessed after he had been removed from his office in April of 2015, and that his iPhone data had not been preserved at all.
City Attorney Jessica Hernandez did not respond to an email from ABQ Free Press Weekly seeking comment on Grover’s motion.
The city provided Chavez copies of the computer and the external hard drive, but according to a forensic computer expert hired by Grover, a program called RESETFILETIME had been run on the computer hard drive six days before Chavez was removed from his office, and the external hard drive was accessed 17 days after he was moved out of the office. In addition, all of the data on Chavez’s city-issued cell phone has been lost, the motion said.
The RESETFILETIME program is “capable of altering file system dates and times,” Grover’s motion said.
The computer expert, Thomas Blog, determined that the data on the hard drives had cell phone had not been properly preserved. “It is my conclusion based on my training and experience in digital forensics and computer forensics that Mr Chavez’s computer and hard drive, external backup and cell phone were not appropriately preserved from a forensic and chain of custody standpoint,” Blog’s affidavit to the motion said. “And as a result data on the cell phone has been lost and data on the external hard drive may have been compromised.”
Grover told ABQ Free Press Weekly that from a legal standpoint, any information on the hard drives is worthless as evidence because the chain of custody had been broken and the data might have been tampered with.
“The chain of custody is completely screwed up,” Grover said, adding that if the same thing happened with evidence in a criminal case the evidence would not be allowed and the case “would be over.”
When asked if he thought information might be missing from the hard drives, Grover replied, “Absolutely. For 16 months the city has been saying that it [the cell phone and two hard drives] is intact, and it’s not intact. We are not going to know what we don’t know.”
Grover’s motion asks that the city be ordered to pay him the $3,500 it cost to hire Blog, as well as attorneys fees and costs involved in taking the depositions of witnesses pertaining to the hard drives.
Chavez’s lawsuit claims he was fired in retaliation for challenging orders from his superiors to delay and deny public information requests.