The trial of Keith Raniere is the subject.
It ran from May 7 to June 19, 2019, when Raniere was convicted.
FBI Special Agent Christopher Mills made an error when he testified. He testified on June 10, 2019.
The mistake he made was about a hard drive seized at 8 Hale. He misidentified it. He called a silver docking station a hard drive. He even took the wrong photo of it.
In short, the hard drive was next to a silver docking station.
What’s a docking station? Some old hard drives don’t have an external casing. So, to use one, you plug it into a docking station. It looks like a hard drive on the outside but is not a hard drive. The docking station has no data in it.
It’s like the difference between a sword and a sheath.
Mills testified for the prosecution. He was part of the FBI team that searched Raniere’s townhouse/library at 8 Hale Drive.
Mills took the pictures at the raid. According to his testimony, the first two items seized were a hard drive and a Canon camera. Inside the camera was a camera card. The camera, its camera card, and a hard drive sunk Keith Raniere.
The hard drive had child porn on it. The forensic data showed that the photos were taken on the Canon camera.
Mills testified he seized the devices.
Not just any hard drive
The first item seized was the camera. It was under the desk. Mills went straight under the desk and took the camera in a bag. See the arrow on the left in the photo above – that is where the camera was found.
Next, Mills went to the shelf above a computer and grabbed the hard drive. See the arrow on the right. That is where the hard drive was. It was next to the silver docking station.
Mills went straight to the evidence that would later be used to prove child porn and sexual exploitation of a child. The child was Camila. She was a child in 2005, 13 years before the raid.
It was as if Mills was a homing pigeon.
Either that or someone told him in advance what to seize. But no, that could not be, since the FBI did not know there was child porn there. They did not discover that until 11 months later.
There were all kinds of devices in the office. But they went to these two first and skipped past others.
Mills and the FBI did their raid on March 27, 2018. The raid came one day after the FBI arrested Raniere.
The hard drive was the big score. This is the hard drive with 22 nude photos of an underage Camila. Raniere says the FBI planted child porn on this drive.
So, it is strange. The FBI seized the hard drive in March 2018. They justified the search, claiming that devices at 8 Hale might have collateral. Collateral is pictures and videos taken after 2015 when DOS started. This collateral was supposed to prove coercion – of sex trafficking and forced labor – of adult DOS slaves.
There were no child charges then. The victims were adults.
Eleven months later, the FBI accidentally discovered child porn on the hard drive. Pictures taken in 2005, they said.
They seized it first. And found it last. Twenty-six days before jury selection, when all six codefendants with their 18 attorneys were united in their defense.
Then they found the child porn, the evidence that changed the whole case. Within days, everyone but Raniere took a plea deal.
It could happen. Coincidences happen.
But it was no coincidence that Mills – who did the actual seizing of the devices and photographed it – got it wrong. He testified about it wrong.
At the raid, he took the wrong picture. He took a picture of a docking station. When he testified in court, he got it wrong. He identified his wrong photo as the hard drive,
Mills called the hard drive silver or gray. It is black. Let’s look at the actual hard drive.
The photo is from the FBI’s examination notes. Forensic Examiner Trainee Virginia Donnelly did the forensic copy of the hard drive on September 19, 2018. This is the photo of the hard drive. It is black, not silver or gray.
When he testified, Mills gave the serial number of the hard drive. Western Digital Hard Drive. WCAS81365334.
But he took the wrong photo.
Here is a photo of the Western Digital hard drive in Keith Raniere’s study. It comes from a screenshot from a video Mark Vicente made several years earlier. It is in the same place where the FBI found it.
Here is the picture Mills took of evidence item #1 – the camera in its bag.
Mills even took a photo of where he took the camera bag from.
The next evidence item seized was the hard drive. Mills took a picture of it, but, as I said, he got it wrong.
The hard drive is not the silver device where he placed the card “2” in front. Instead, it is the device next to it.
Let’s read his testimony.
AUSA Tanya Hajjar is examining Mills.
Hajjar: So, turning now, Agent Mills, to Government Exhibit 502-A-34, can you describe what this photograph shows?
Mills: I don’t have anything on the screen.
Exhibit 502-A-34 appears [below] on the screen.
The FBI never found the Dell Dimension. The metadata shows no one gained access to the hard drive since 2010.
Nobody looked at the pictures. They sat on a hard drive for nine years and nobody looked at them.
Then the FBI went straight to the camera and hard drive.
Two items: the camera that took the pictures of Camila and the hard drive stored them.
But the FBI did not search these devices for months.
At least not on the record.
The FBI did not state the hard drive had evidence related to any charges when they turned over copies to the defense in October 2018.
It was not until February 21, 2019 – 11 months after the FBI seized it – that the FBI accidentally found the photos.
It may be fate. It may be coincidence. But it is odd. The odds against it being all accidental are high. The odds of seizing first – #1 and #2, the only two digital devices out of 21 items used in evidence – are about 1 in 200.
But it could happen. The odds of them seeking these devices out first but not discovering the evidence in them until the eve of trial is even higher. But it could happen.
But how come Mills got it wrong? He testified wrong. He did not identify the hard drive. The guy that seized it – the expert – and still called a docking station the hard drive. And he had the photo of the hard drive in front of him.
It doesn’t mean much by itself. But it is peculiar. I would think he would have known. It is almost as peculiar as FBI forensic examiner Brian Booth saying that EXIF data is hard to change when it is not.
It’s as peculiar as Booth admitting someone accessed the camera card while in FBI custody. Someone unknown. He did not know who got into the camera card on September 19, 2018. Six months after the FBI seized the card, their expert could not say who anonymously accessed it.
Someone sneaked in. Someone did it without using a write blocker.
Booth admitted this. The camera card evidence spoliation occurred.
All the access dates on the camera card changed while in FBI custody.
Little things. Like losing the chain of custody of the most important evidence in the trial.
Or calling a black hard drive a silver docking station. Tiny things, but enough to give Raniere headroom to make his tampering claim.
Or like a photo of a maple tree in the same “studies” folder as Camila’s child porn. The midnight maple. The EXIF data shows someone took the picture at 12:20 am on October 17, 2005.
Very good. But the photo is a daylight photo. And the EXIF data shows the settings were daylight. But it was taken at 12:20 am. That’s what the EXIF data says.
So much for reliable EXIF data.
It’s these things and other things in the report of Dr. J. Richard Kiper that could make a fair-minded person unsettled.
Did someone manipulate the files? Was this an elaborate setup?
Why did Raniere mothball the piano and leave the hard drive with child porn in plain sight? Then there is other evidence, like the fact that the FBI hid the camera card for 11 months. I mean, hid it.
Then they turned it in. And then they made two different copies of it. Both were different.
I don’t want this to be true. I am not on Raniere’s side. But something is off. It might be a series of strange coincidences.
They mixed up the camera card exhibit with the Camila texts.
And these they had ready in December – three months before they discovered the child porn. The prosecution used Camila’s texts to prove the child porn.
Why were they working on this in December 2018?
That was two months before they accidentally discovered the child porn in February?
I could name a dozen more coincidences. Odd things like impossible EXIF data dates. Files inside folders older than parent folders. Adjustments for Daylight Savings time that went in the wrong direction. Adobe Elements on a file where it shouldn’t be there unless someone changed the metadata.
Or two sets of files – the exact same EXIF data. But on one set, the thumbnails are a blonde – Angel – and on the other, a brunette – Daniela.
It can’t be, but it is. The EXIF data is the same. The EXIF data says the Canon camera took separate photos of Daniela and Angel simultaneously. Photos of two different women – taken in two places – taken simultaneously – down to the second.
But they weren’t in the same room together. Daniela was at 3 Flintlock. Angel was at 8 Hale. So how did Raniere take both of their photos with the same camera at the same second?
I’m not saying Raniere is not a scoundrel. I’m not saying he did not abuse Camila.
But what if the FBI did not have the evidence, and had to fudge it?
That isn’t justice if it happened.
Kathy Russell’s and Daniela’s thumbnails appear on the same hard drive. They appear in each other’s folders. The prosecution used their photos to prove the 2005 date of the Camila photos.
But how did their thumbnails get into each other’s folders when the images aren’t? It’s impossible unless they were there in one file, and someone moved them out. But that can’t be because the metadata would show it and it doesn’t. The EXIF data and the modified data say they were never touched, never moved. Never altered.
But they were.
Could be just happenstance. Just coincidence. But how many coincidences does it take to equal a fact?
I cannot stress it enough. This is not about Camila. The varmint abused her and lots of women. This is about the FBI. If they cheated to get a scoundrel, what would stop them from cheating to get you or me?
I don’t have the answers. I don’t know if they cheat. I don’t know. It could be dumb luck and incompetence.
I am not even certain they know silver from black.