Tuesday, 30 August 2016 13:42

Silent movie without a plot: Documents describe Rockfish warehouse recordings

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One of the latest issues to emerge in the Operation Rockfish police corruption case is discussion of a warehouse which figured prominently in motions to have Antonio Tillmon’s trial in the matter continued until October.

The warehouse which was used in the police corruption sting is located in Rocky Mount, multiple sources have said. A motion against the continuance notes it is 40 miles from Greenville, where the trial will be held.
Use of the warehouse also sheds new light on how the government carried out the undercover operation.
Tillmon’s attorney, Jason Brenner, notes in the motion for continuance contained in the federal court record he has requested access to what he calls “the alleged warehouse site” from the government and learned that a motion for such access may be necessary. “An inspection and a defense presentation concerning this are important in this matter. Counsel expects to file a motion in the coming days seeking this access.”
In his motion filed last week for the government to provide access to the site, Brenner seeks the address and current ownership status or, as an alternative, have the government’s audio and visual recording from the site excluded during the trial. “The audio and visual recordings made at this site are manifestly poor in quality. Nevertheless these recordings aspire to show the movements and interactions of defendants and others in the warehouse in a manner that the government may claim is incriminating. Specifically the Government may contend that statements were made by individuals in this case concerning drugs and other matters and the location of individuals and times these statements were allegedly made is crucial in this case.”
‘Silent movie without a plot’
The government, to the extent it controlled aspects of these operations, Brenner argued, had the capacity to record them in a high quality, synchronized, and otherwise reliable manner. “To counsel’s knowledge, and following a review of a massive quantity of recordings, it did not.”
Brenner said the video recordings of the same warehouse meeting are from two vantage points in the same room, but the two cameras employed exhibit drastically different resolution, and the two recordings are not time synchronized. “This undercuts the ability to determine who participated in the meeting and to what extent. The defendant’s mere presence in the room is apparent, but as no audio accompanies the video, it’s a silent movie without a plot.”
Brenner said, “We find audio recordings of a warehouse meeting that appear to be the soundtrack for that video recording. But they are not. Only after considerable analysis can one determine that the evidence fails to contain a soundtrack for the video. This further undercuts the ability to determine the defendant’s actual participation.”
Brenner said in the motions the lone recorded statement concerning drugs, heroin, or cocaine allegedly made in Tillmon’s presence and known to counsel supposedly took place in the warehouse site amid a group of individuals in the motion.” Accurately portraying this site and these interactions to explain Mr. Tillmon’s case is essential, rather than relying on the government’s poor quality recordings.”
Warehouse a form evidence
Brenner called the warehouse site a form of evidence in the case. “Counsel believes the configuration of the rooms, the movement of individuals, the placement of recording devices, and other matters will be important areas of contention at trial. Again, it is essential that Mr. Tillmon be able to produce his account, in contrast to the poor quality materials produced by the government.”
Brenner said in the motion to continue, “The government chose to use this site in its operations with Mr. Tillmon, and recorded alleged activities in an obscure manner. Given the stakes in this case, it is essential that Mr. Tillmon be able to recreate the warehouse site impressions for the jury. The ends of justice and the Sixth Amendment require that Mr. Tillmon be allowed to present the warehouse setting as it appeared to him, and to counter the audio and visual evidence presented by the government.”
Government response
In arguing against the continuance, United States Attorney John Brice wrote, “The defendant seeks to compel disclosure of the location of the warehouse that he visited on four separate occasions.
“The government, however, does not have sole possession of the knowledge of the warehouse location. The defendant himself traveled to the warehouse on four separate occasions in order to participate in the drug trafficking operations. He last visited the warehouse on April 30, 2015, the date on which he was arrested. The defendant therefore has known the address of the warehouse and could have sought access at any point after the indictment was returned in this case.”
The government provided the name and current ownership status of the warehouse to the defendant last week. “As the government has told the defendant, the government is unable to provide the defendant with access to the warehouse because the government does not own the Warehouse.”
Brice said the government leased the warehouse from a private entity during the undercover operation and for an additional three months after the arrest of the defendant. The defendant never requested access to inspect the warehouse during this time period.
“The defendant waited until August 8, 2016, more than a year after receiving discovery in this case, to request access to the warehouse,” Brice said. “The defendant will suffer no prejudice from not returning to the warehouse since he has been there multiple times before to participate in the drug trafficking operation and has firsthand knowledge of the warehouse.“
Brice said there has been no spoliation of evidence “The layout of the warehouse has been preserved on video recordings from several cameras placed around the warehouse. These cameras show the interior and exterior of the warehouse from multiple angles. The defendant and the jury will be able use these video recordings to view the warehouse as it was during the time of the crimes charged in the indictment.”
Because the jury will be able to view all of the video depictions of the warehouse, Brice wrote, “a jury view of the warehouse is also unnecessary and would merely lead to undue delay and a waste of time during the trial. Whether to permit such a visit by the jury is a matter resting in [the trial judge’s] sound discretion.”

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