Overview of Historic FBI Tampering in US v. Raniere
Seven top digital forensics experts, including four former FBI experts, announced their conclusions of tampering of key evidence in US v. Raniere.
The experts have a combined nearly 200+ years of experience and include former FBI forensic examiners Dr. James Richard Kiper, Stacy Eldridge, William Odom, and Mark Daniel Bowling, former state constable Steven Abrams, former University of Delaware Police Captain, and software engineer Wayne Norris.
The experts issued reports concluding to a scientific certainty that photos and metadata used to convict the defendant of child pornography charges were heavily tampered, and some of that tampering occurred while in custody of the FBI.
Dr. Kiper stated, “In my 20 years experience with the FBI, I have never seen data manipulation, evidence tampering, anything like this, on this scale.”
Former FBI Senior Forensic Examiner Stacy Eldridge said, “In my ten years of experience in the FBI and 20 years of digital forensic experience, I have never seen anybody go to such great lengths to manipulate evidence.”
Former FBI Forensic Examiner William Odom said, “In 25 years of digital forensic investigations, five of which was with the FBI, the amount of premeditation to perform this fraud — I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The tampered devices include a camera card and a hard drive, which were linked to 22 photos of a nude female that the government argued were contraband images. To prove the illegality of the photos, the government used the photo creation dates in their metadata to establish that the subject of the photos was underage when they were taken. Incidentally, the experts all found that the most extensive evidence of tampering was in the manual manipulation of dates and times in the EXIF metadata.
The findings were determined to a scientific certainty, by pro-government and former law enforcement experts. These findings included:
- The photos alleged to be child pornography were planted on the hard drive
- Photos dates were manually manipulated to appear authentic
- Someone added files to the camera card, likely while in FBI custody, that was used to link the contraband images to Mr. Raniere
- At the trial, the prosecution’s FBI expert witness committed perjury about the reliability of the photo creation dates
- Tampering on the camera card left behind mistakes, for example four photos that were supposed to be of the same woman showed a brunette in one photo and a blonde in the other
- While in the unauthorized custody of FBI Special Agent Michael Lever, an unknown person modified the camera card
- Photos were backed up on the hard drive before the camera was manufactured
- The prosecution’s FBI witness who testified about the “child porn” committed perjury on the stand, and admitted there was no chain of custody for key device
The report demonstrates that tampering, and the cover up of the tampering, was an extensively coordinated effort involving potentially 20 or more government agents. In addition to naming several FBI agents whose protocol breaches were highly suspect, the reports indicate likely foreknowledge of malfeasance by the case’s two lead prosecutors, Moira Kim Penza and Tanya Hajjar, by showing evidence that they were involved in, or directed, at least some of this fraudulent activity.
Within 24 hours of a motion with Dr. Kiper’s 100+ page report being filed with the court, prosecutor Kevin Trowel responded calling this assertion of government malfeasance “frivolous.” The Court so far has not intervened. Despite this evidence filed with the district court in May 2022, trial Judge Nicolas Garaufis has refused to classify this historic criminal activity that occurred in his court as a “substantial issue.” The appeals court has also yet to acknowledge it. Finally, even after this evidence was presented to the court, Attorney General Garland awarded the actors implicated in this malfeasance in July 2022.