As an unsuspecting woman entered the local Subway restaurant, I was eight miles away. As she paid for her sandwich order and exited the building, I was eight miles away. As she walked beneath the night sky and climbed into her Oldsmobile Alero, I was eight miles away. As a predator jumped into the passenger seat and assaulted her, I was eight miles away. Eight miles. The distance separating my Richmond Massachusetts home from the scene of a violent sexual attack.
Four months later I was taken into custody by Pittsfield Massachusetts detectives and charged with the crime. Ensconced in a police cruiser, secured in handcuffs, I was scared and confused. How could this happen to a model citizen who hadn’t broken any laws? Surely detectives would sort out their mistake, issue me a formal apology, and then vanish from my life.
During booking, as felony charges were elucidated, something dawned on me. Although 131 days had transpired since the October 21st assault, I had vivid recollection of everything I’d done on that particular date. October 21st had started out much differently than most days, primarily due to an offbeat workplace incident. I remembered coming home from work on October 21st, preparing a quick meal, and spending a tedious evening repairing glitches within a software project. In addition, I’d spent time online researching study materials.
Completely naive to Pittsfield police depravity, I told detectives my activities and whereabouts for the night in question. In addition, I blurted out that hard drive registry data on my home computer would establish that I was two towns away during the date and time of the assault. As if that wasn’t too much information, I unwisely revealed my intentions of hiring a computer forensics investigator to extract this data.
As a result of my big mouth, detectives promptly tracked down the computer and seized it illegally without a warrant. The Hewlett-Packard was transported to the Pittsfield police station and smuggled into the forensics department. To conceal their malfeasance, detectives never catalogued the computer as evidence. Once it was safely in the hands of technicians, the unit underwent malicious tampering. Meaningless files were surreptitiously introduced to the hard drive which reshuffled the hard drive registry. With the registry chronology now scrambled, my computer was rendered useless as an alibi.
When my attorney attempted to retrieve the computer she was told that it had gone missing. This of course was a lie. Detectives had panicked and were now hiding the unit in the hopes of covering up their vandalism. The ruse didn’t fool me and it certainly didn’t fool my attorney, and so a legal battle ensued. Detectives were eventually forced to abandon their charade and relinquish possession.
The ravished computer was transported out of Massachusetts and turned over to New England Computer Forensics, LLC., where it underwent a thorough examination. James Kalkowski, a forensic data recovery specialist, discovered that exactly 557 files were inexplicably added to my hard drive while in police custody. An excerpt from his report reads: “…The first thing I noticed was that, based on the information I was given regarding the computer’s seizure, a proper forensic analysis was not done. A proper computer forensic investigation means that the data on the hard drive should never be altered after a computer is seized…”
Had my computer contained incriminating evidence, Pittsfield police would have initiated great pains to preserve its integrity. No mystery files would have been introduced and the registry data would never have been scrambled. But after learning that the computer held exculpatory evidence (my alibi) they thought nothing of illegally tampering with my hard drive and hiding their secret. If I was so guilty then why the need to steal my computer and vandalize it? More importantly, in how many other cases have such acts been perpetrated?
Alibi? Why bother?