Judge dismisses case involving stolen iPhone, despite selfies of suspect on victim’s iCloud

A woman who had her iPhone stolen says she thought once the thief was caught, the case was a slam dunk.

But in the end, he walked away scot-free.

Belinda, who doesn’t want us to use her last name, was in the Waikiki-Kapahulu Public Library when her phone was stolen.

She didn’t see who took it, but she started tracking the phone’s GPS. She says she used the Find my iPhone app and noticed it was in Kalihi.

She also checked her iCloud account and noticed several pictures were being taken on the phone.

“One-hundred-sixty selfies of himself and his tattoos,” she said.

She was able to tell police where to find him. He was arrested and charged with felony theft.

She downloaded and printed out all the evidence ready for the trial.

But when it came time to present it in court, “the defense would ask it to be stricken for the record,” Belinda said.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office tells us that the judge did not allow the pictures to be used as evidence, because an expert was needed to verify them.

Ken Lawson, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, says prosecutors should have known that an expert would be necessary.

“You need an expert to put on the stand that basically would tell the court how it is that that phone and that iCloud attached to that phone device is secure enough to where the evidence is what it’s purported to be,” Lawson explained.

Once the judge ruled that an expert was needed to present the evidence, why didn’t the prosecutor ask for more time so an expert could be brought in?

A spokesman says by then, it was too late and the judge would not allow it.

“It’s frustrating, because I thought I at least had a slam dunk on who had possession of my phone,” Belinda said.

Lawson adds that it would have been different if the phone was actually recovered and the pictures were still in it. Then an expert would not have been needed.

He adds that an expert would also be needed when evidence is used from surveillance camera footage that is also stored on iCloud.

We asked prosecutors if they plan to bring in an expert when dealing with this type of case. A spokesman says given the same circumstances, they probably would, but everything is on a case-by-case basis.

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