By Jean Salyer
Intro: if you are unsure about the Kristen Lindsey case please start by clicking this link (and come back). She’s a vet who worked in Texas and who allegedly killed a neighbor’s cat with a bow and arrow through the head at close range because she likes to kill animals she said on Facebook. The Facebook ‘evidence’ was removed shortly after it was posted.
QUESTION: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SUBPOENA AND A SEARCH WARRANT?
ANSWER: AN INDICTMENT
At least that seems to be the case when DA Travis Koehn conducts an investigation. In what may have been the fastest grand jury hearing in history, the Kristen Lindsey case was settled in a few short hours.
The jury convened in the morning, and by early afternoon it was a done deal. It’s hard to believe that experts testified, law enforcement testified, the DA argued his case, the jurors deliberated, results were presented to the DA, findings were analyzed, and a press release was written and published- all in the space of 5 hours or so.
Wow, things sure move fast in Koehn’s neck of the woods! So fast that maybe – just maybe- the investigation wasn’t as thorough as the DA claimed it was. Maybe he didn’t bother to get the evidence he needed to convince the grand jury to indict.
Here is one of many troublesome aspects to the Lindsey investigation: Travis Koehn stated in his press release that “Subpoenas to Facebook failed to produce useable evidence, as the account was deleted the same day law enforcement became aware of the matter.”
On the surface that sounds almost reasonable. The man issued a subpoena, and Facebook complied. The subpoena didn’t turn up much. What’s a fella to do? He tried, right?
Oh wait, not so fast… first let’s take a look at what a SUBPOENA to Facebook will actually produce in terms of evidence. This is what you get: “name, length of service, credit card information, email address(es) and a recent login/logout IP address(es), if available.” Oh boy, all that for the price of one subpoena! Travis Koehn must have been thrilled to find out which credit cards Kristen Lindsey uses.
Golly gee whiz, if only he had obtained an actual SEARCH WARRANT as required by law to get account information that might actually have incriminated Lindsey…
Here’s what a SEARCH WARRANT will get you: messages, videos, wall posts, photos and location information. Oh, and Facebook typically stores info for 90 days. Anyone taking bets that Mr. K got right on this? In addition, Mr. K could have applied for Facebook “Account Preservation” to make sure KL’s FB data didn’t vanish. Maybe he was just too busy thinking of ways to get Lindsey off. I mean, the bow and arrow = humane euthanasia theory of his—now that’s a reach! And, let’s not forget the “Well, darn, we don’t even know if this happened in Texas” dodge. A three minute interview with KL’s parents, who witnessed and photographed this joyous family bonding moment, would’ve cleared that right up.
Here’s the real kicker though: it appears that KL never deleted her account, but only deactivated it, meaning some of the old stuff she posted might still be there. How do we know this, you ask? Last week, KL briefly displayed a FB account under the name Kristen Erin, which showed friends and a timeline going back as far as 2009. Pretty cool trick to backdate a brand new Kristen Erin account— we’d love to know how she did this.
Now, are we positive that Mr. Koehn didn’t obtain a search warrant for KL’s Facebook records? Not really, but keep in mind the DA only mentioned a subpoena in his press release. Quite a boo-boo for a lawyer if he meant to write “Search Warrant”… or maybe he thinks it’s none of our business, as he seems to think justice is none of our business.
For those who are interested in learning more about Facebook’s compliance with the law, here’s the fine print:
This is Facebook’s policy about law enforcement requests for data:
“US Legal Process Requirements
We disclose account records solely in accordance with our terms of service and applicable law, including the federal Stored Communications Act (“SCA”), 18 U.S.C. Sections 2701-2712. Under US law:
A valid subpoena issued in connection with an official criminal investigation is required to compel the disclosure of basic subscriber records (defined in 18 U.S.C. Section 2703(c)(2)), which may include: name, length of service, credit card information, email address(es), and a recent login/logout IP address(es), if available.
A court order issued under 18 U.S.C. Section 2703(d) is required to compel the disclosure of certain records or other information pertaining to the account, not including contents of communications, which may include message headers and IP addresses, in addition to the basic subscriber records identified above.
A search warrant issued under the procedures described in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure or equivalent state warrant procedures upon a showing of probable cause is required to compel the disclosure of the stored contents of any account, which may include messages, photos, videos, wall posts, and location information.
We interpret the national security letter provision as applied to Facebook to require the production of only 2 categories of information: name and length of service.
International Legal Process Requirements
We disclose account records solely in accordance with our terms of service and applicable law. A Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty request or letter rogatory may be required to compel the disclosure of the contents of an account. Further information can be found here:facebook.com/about/privacy/other.
We will take steps to preserve account records in connection with official criminal investigations for 90 days pending our receipt of formal legal process. You may expeditiously submit formal preservation requests through the Law Enforcement Online Request System atfacebook.com/records, or by email, or mail as indicated below.
In responding to a matter involving imminent harm to a child or risk of death or serious physical injury to any person and requiring disclosure of information without delay, a law enforcement official may submit a request through the Law Enforcement Online Request System atfacebook.com/records. Important note: We will not review or respond to messages sent to this email address by non-law enforcement officials. Users aware of an emergency situation should immediately and directly contact local law enforcement officials.
We also may retain information from accounts disabled for violations of our terms for at least a year to prevent repeat abuse or other violations of our terms.”
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