In this series, “Tampered but True?” I am going to examine the Cami pics – not the pics themselves, which are illegal to possess, but the evidence surrounding them.
This is Part 1.
We will examine the possibility of tampering by the FBI and whether it is true, nonetheless, that Keith Raniere sexually exploited Cami when she was 15. Both might be true.
What happens then?
As readers know, Suneel Chakravorty, a staunch friend of Raniere’s, has been trying to prove that the nude pics of Cami presented at the trial were tampered with by the FBI.
The tampering, he believes, concerned changing dates, and possibly altering pictures, to make a then-adult and legal Cami appear to have been underage when the photos were taken.
Cami is now 31. She was 13 when she met Raniere in 2003.
The evidence of Raniere’s abuse of Cami comes from three devices: a hard drive, a camera, and a camera card.
Some 20 nude pictures of Cami were introduced as evidence of predicate acts of racketeering: possession of child porn and sexual exploitation of a minor.
Raniere is 30 years Cami’s senior.
The photos, the prosecution alleged, were taken on two dates in November 2005, when Cami was 15 and found on a hard drive that was seized by the FBI from Raniere’s library in a townhouse in Half Moon, NY.
From what I have seen so far, Suneel has a way to go to actually prove the FBI tampered with the Cami photos, yet there are curious circumstances that suggest further inquiry.
The most significant circumstance is that the Cami nude pics were, arguably, the single most damning evidence in the case. If they have been improperly dated and Cami was not underage when the nudes were taken, this blows a moral hole in the prosecution and may require a new trial.
Could they be that stupid?
Normally, such a wild accusation as FBI tampering with critical evidence would be dismissed out of hand.
But, in this case, during the trial, FBI Senior Forensic Examiner Brian Booth testified that the FBI lost custody of the camera card, by which, the government allegedly discerned that the Cami nude photographs recovered from the hard drive were taken on November 2 and 24, 2005, making Cami underage when the nude photos were taken.
FBI expert witness Booth did not – or could not – explain how it was possible that the camera card was lost while in FBI custody, how someone apparently accessed it, who that someone was, or, while it was lost and before it was recovered, what the entirety of the changes were that were done by the unknown person or persons to the camera card.
He did confirm that dates were changed by someone, but he does not know who that someone was.
He did not say how the camera card was recovered after being lost by the FBI. Indeed, he could not or did not say who gave him the camera card from which the dates of the photos were, in part, determined.
Frank Report will be presenting more of Booth’s testimony in subsequent posts, but here is one telling exchange:
He is being cross-examined by Raniere’s defense attorney, Paul DerOhannesian.
A The access dates appear to be.
Q The metadata for Exhibit 524, the media card, reflects that the digital evidence on Exhibit 524 changed while it was in the possession of the FBI, correct?
A If I’m taking the dates on when we received it, it would appear so.
Q And the dates that you received just now came from your report, correct?
Q That you generated as evidence in the case against — United States against Keith Raniere, correct?
Q The goal of forensic examination is to preserve the electronic data, so that the metadata doesn’t change, correct?
Q Do you know the name of the person who accessed the SD or media card, Exhibit 524, on September 19, 2018?
A No, I do not.
Q Do you have any record in any piece of evidence or notes that reflects the accessing of Government Exhibit 524 by any representative of the FBI on September 19, 2018?
A No, I do not.
That tells a shocking story. It may not seem like much but it does mean a lot. The FBI lost custody of the media card, someone accessed it, and their expert does not know who it was.
I do not know how often the FBI loses custody of seized items that wind up being the very linchpin of their case, but I would imagine it is rare, to say the least.
Keith Raniere’s appellate attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, has said in the appeal that there will be a Rule 33 motion concerning the reliability of the FBI witness, Brian Booth’s testimony.