Welcome to Paperwork Wednesday, our new Wednesday segment featuring paperwork and electronic files relating to our numerous past legal cases. All of the paperwork is from cases that are not current and have been closed. The photo below features just some of our paper from one of the 4 Boroughs that had brought charges against us in New York City. These documents include multiple CD’s (that include digital files and records from multiple email providers), Search Warrants, Protective Orders, Complaint Reports, Phone Records, Texts, PEN registers, etc. These files were made possible by the New York District Attorney’s Office and the warrants they obtained for various individuals.
Before we start, we just want to make clear that Paperwork Wednesday was never meant to be a platform for beef . Sure, with the amount of paperwork and information we have, there are going to be times where certain people might be less than happy with what we post. These are the papers we received from our lawyers, and we stand behind the authenticity of everything we post 100%. If that upsets people, then so be it. But the real purpose behind Paperwork Wednesday is to educate people on the legal system and the tactics they use to obtain search warrants, arrests and convictions. In the past, writers have made statements saying that they would publish their paperwork to aide others in similar legal situations, but so far, we are not aware of anyone coming through on that promise. We literally have boxes and boxes of court documents lying around, all of which cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars to procure . Our hope is that the information within those documents can help people out there (be it with their own legal issues, or just by letting people know what to be aware of/what to do/what not to do).
This week’s featured paperwork is actually an electronic file in the form of an email obtained from search warrants placed on several writer’s email accounts. To make a long story short one of us was raided at a yard on December 16th, 2007 at a spot another writer knew we were going to. He was supposed to come along on the mission that night, but at the last minute canceled due to unspecified circumstances. Our lookout (a local NY writer) was on the phone with Cope2 the entire time, unbeknownst to us. After narrowly escaping a set-up raid by foot chase on the snowy streets of Jerome Ave we drove around the surrounding streets to pick up our lookout, who we then realized was on the phone with Cope2, Cope2 became frustrated and frantic, yelling on the phone and insisting that he had nothing to do with it, even though no one ever accused him of being involved at that point in time. It was all very weird and awkward.
Below is the email I received the next day, forwarded to us in attempt to explain why the raid happened in the yard. This email includes and mentions panels painted by other people around the same time frame as the raid, supposedly to prove the point that the yard was heated by other writers, not by any contact with Law Enforcement. The photos sent were of a yard that is not the yard we were raided at, nor one near the yard we were raided at, so we fail to see the relevance. By this email being sent we received transit photos of other writers (who we do not know personally) that contained .exif data specific to the original Third Party sender. This is all information that the NYPD and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office has had since mid 2008, due to multiple search warrants.
*These files are from a closed case. All events described above have resulted in formal indictments which led to jail sentences that have been served. Names are blacked out by the courts due to protective orders on the documents above. This is called "redaction". So in a nut shell what is clearly implied by the paperwork above is due to the fact that someone informed police about the alleged and believed location of a specific writer that being "ETHER" the police were able to use that statement to connect to a specific cell phone that before was not able to be legally tied to that individual due to the GPS location of the phone. This statement subsequently tied the writer to the location on a time and date that could be matched to a specific phone creating sustainable evidence against the defendant. Without this statement from the implicated deponent/snitch there is no tangible evidence that can place the writer known as "ETHER" at the scene of the crime and nothing that can attach "ETHER" to the phone associated to the incident and it's GPS locations. *All blurred lines have nothing to do with who is the deponent/snitch, the blurred lines are present only to not disclose personal information about the specific defendant and to not give the police, judge and other officials any further fame or attention in relation to this case. Many individuals who were involved in the investigation during these times are aware of the names of the officers involved as well as personal information such as phone numbers and addresses that may or may not be those of the accused suspect by the name "ETHER".
A lot of the questions we have been getting since we posted the paperwork above in reference to the blacked out names and sentences in the paperwork we post. Many people have asked why we would black out the names of snitches and information that implicates them. This is a reasonable question. After all, why protect people who expose others to legal persecution? We would like to make clear that all of the blacked out parts of our paperwork were intact when the documents were given to us. We did not make those marks, they were already there.
But why wouldn’t someone get to see all of the evidence against them? After all, isn’t knowing what you’re up against necessary to building a proper legal defense? Apparently the United States Justice System doesn’t always think so. When law enforcement needs to obtain warrants to further a criminal investigation the courts must grant these warrants. At the request of the District Attorney, the courts can also seal the contents of certain search warrants, thus withholding the information within them from the public (including the people they are pertaining to).
Only officers of the court and those with certain authority are allowed to see contents of a sealed warrant. In some cases, search warrants may be partially sealed; the contents are released to the public with certain information redacted (obscured, usually by being blacked out, as is the case with the paperwork we post).
Search warrants can be sealed if they contain information that would, if revealed, impede the investigation. They can also be sealed if they contain information that might put someone in harm if made public, or if release of the contents clearly causes an invasion of privacy. For example if a search warrant contains information that might tip off a co-conspirator in a case, or information directly pertaining to an informant, that information can be sealed.
For those who are currently dealing with legal issues, it’s important to be aware of sealed warrants and how they can affect your case. Just because you don’t have access to all the evidence against you doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Generally speaking, law enforcement isn’t too excited about giving defendants any information about their cases and the warrants involved. Your lawyer must request for all warrants pertaining to your case, at which point the presence of sealed warrants will be revealed. You will not get to see these sealed warrants in their entirety as it is very hard and expensive to get a sealed order overturned, and also very unlikely (after all, they were sealed for a reason). Often times you will not even receive information on what the warrant pertains to, you will merely be told that it exists.
The other option to gain access to information contained in sealed warrants is to take your case to trial. In a trial, evidence is presented before a jury and consequently some of the cooperating individuals (if they decide to/are supposed to testify) and censored information will be exposed. The problem with going to trial is that in addition to it costing an exorbitant amount of money and time, you are opening yourself up to receiving a significantly harsher sentence than if you chose not to go to trial. Also, even with going to trial, there is no guarantee that you will be able to see all of your warrants. The courts do not recognize any right of access to warrant materials while an investigation is ongoing. If a D.A can convince the judge that information in your paperwork could pertain to any current or future investigations, the judge will not unseal the warrants, pretty much allowing them to be sealed indefinitely.
This week we are going to explain exactly how PEN Registers work. PEN Registers are an electronic device used on phones that record information concerning outgoing and incoming calls and texts. Authorities need not have any physical contact with your cell phone to enact a PEN Register on it. When a PEN Register is active on your phone it allows police to view your text messages, GPS Location, and Calls (both incoming and outgoing) in real time (ie: as they are being sent/received). Pen Registers also give authorities access to any past records tied to your phone. You can view these specific Penal Codes (Article 705, and2703) which are referenced throughout our paperwork (Pages are pulled from multiple Affidavits).
First, how do they get you phone number? This is simple. 1) You were arrested with your phone and they wrote down it’s information. 2) Someone else is arrested with their phone and have you saved as a contact, which depending on your contact with police could interest them. 3) Someone tells them your number, or you have emails exchanging your number with others. Even of none of the things we just mentioned happened, if you are paying for your phone with a debit or credit card, authorities have the legal right to subpoena your records. Authorities can contact your phone providers, who are legally required to provide them with any information they request. With this information they catalog phones calls and patterns. Consequently, they can arguably match your call patterns from a new “safe” account to calls on old registered account.
Above is the first page of an Affidavit, which is submitted to a Judge by a representative of the state. It lays out what authorities are asking for in reference to the specific search warrant and why it is critical to their case. It shows that with PEN Registers, authorities are able to retrieve all caller information (both incoming and outgoing calls). This means that if there is a PEN Register on your phone, it is going to reveal who is calling you, from where, and at what time. So in addition to your phone building cases on yourself, it can also be used to build cases on your friends and associates.
The piece of paperwork above shows that at point (15.) changing a number on an existing phone account is not enough to protect your self from a existing PEN Register. To get around this investigative tactic you must use a phone that is not registered to your name, and not paid for (initially or monthly) with credit or debit cards. In addition to this, you must make sure that your phone is not calling other people’s phones who have these active PEN Registers. If you are exchanging texts with a friend or family member who identifies you or themselves in a text and PEN registers are present, you should probably consider throwing your phone off of a highway overpass so you can see how pretty it looks as the cars below smash it into itty bitty pieces. Because really, that’s all it’s good for at that point.
This page above mentions cell sites, which is how authorities effectively tie you to a specific location at a specific time using Geolocation and Angle of Arrival measurements. You can click on the links for more information, but basically what it all means is that authorities are able to pinpoint your exact location at the time a phone call/text was made or received based on the speed at which the signals bounce off of cell towers in the area. Calls to 911 are traced the same way.
Above indicates that audio phone taps were not present. Audio phone taps are considered highly invasive by the judicial system. However, in post 9/11 times, there is really no one set legal standard for what a Judge will allow.
IN CONCLUSION, it’s not 2008 anymore. All of this paperwork is years old, and with so many people now using iPhones, IPads, Blackberry’s and god knows what other devices, we think it’s safe to assume that technology has only allowed the courts more access to your personal information. Most of these new devices don’t ever permanently delete any data, making it all recoverable by authorities. There is no way to be 100% secure while using a cellphone. That said, we realize that not owning a cellphone is not a viable option for most people in this day and age. It is really all about minimizing the risks you take with owning one. If you are trying to paint trains, or get into any dirt of any consequence, we HIGHLY suggest:
1) Using cheap phones paid in cash registered to fake names and addresses, and change them regularly (a NOKIA model 8210 is best)
2) Not calling/texting people who may be under any sort of investigation/surveillance
3) Not texting anything you wouldn’t say in front of the police, as you very well might be texting it in front of them, and just not know it
4) Not using the internet from your phone, especially to log into any sort of social networking sites (facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.) or email (We receive a high volume of emails from people sent from their blackberrys and iphones . We find it ridiculous that people would tie their personal phone to their email/our email/graffiti websites)
5) Not using your phone when you are in locations that you shouldn’t be. Your coordinates can and will be traced, and your phone usage can be used to tied to events that you probably don’t want to be tied to .
We have already told some of you that if your living a certain life style, your cool-guy iphone/smartphone/blackberry is not conducive to it. One could argue that any information gathered from PEN registers is circumstantial, and wont hold up in court. The fact of the matter is that Circumstantial Evidence is still considered evidence, and will be used against you. Though you can argue against Circumstantial Evidence in a court of law, it comes to a point where there is so much of it, that it becomes very difficult/timely/costly to build a defense that will get your charges totally dismissed. It is way easier/cheaper/more time effective to be on your P’s and Q’s to begin with!
Exif data is a digital code your camera imprints into every photo you take, and sticks with it where ever it travels around the internet and among friends etc. Details such as time and date, are easily messed up by just not setting your time correctly, but what is hard to shift, and what can fuck you royally, is the serial number of the camera used to take the photo.
You take a photo of a panel, and that ends up on the internet, with very simple software you can decode that photo to find the camera model, and serial number. Where do you think an internet search for other photos uploaded with that same serial number attached to it will lead? More than likely, your personal facebook page, instagram or blog, website or personal flickr. If the shot is clearly a yard or night shot, thats your door off the hinges at 7am, and probably the camera itself, within your room, and more than likely for most, some sort of literature that shows you like graffiti on trains. Pretty tech stuff, but this is 2011 and thats a tiny part of the high tech shit they will use to track you down. So keep your photos off the net, exif data is trash-able, with techy software, but a simpler way to get rid of most of the data, if you must send it to someone, is to open the photo and print screen it and send that one.
STATEMENTS & PLEAS
First and foremost we are consistently surprised to many of the stories were hear from other graffiti writters concerning the “Vandal Squad”, or what ever other graffiti-related police they encounter. At no point during our arrests were either of us shown any photos of anyone else’s graffiti or anyone’s warrants or paperwork by police officers. It really makes us wonder what people run their mouths about to get to the point where police are showing them photos and shooting the breeze about other people’s business. When arrested, all you need to do is provide your name and ask for a lawyer. There is no conversation to be had beyond that.
Some of this may sound obvious, however you will be very surprised as to how often people fail to realize that IF AT ANY POINT, you find your self in handcuffs for any reason, you do not have to respond to any questions that police ask you. We suggest informing them of your personal information as far as government name and whatever bullshit address you would like to give them. If you refrain from giving this information you will be sitting in jail until authorities can figure out who you really are (ie: a long time).
Often, after being arrested police will attempt to get you to sign some sort of statement. They will often tell you what you did “isn’t a big deal”, and if you just cop to one charge, they won’t charge you with anything else. They might even offer to let you go home right then and there if you sign a statement, and threaten that if you don’t sign, they will go even harder on you. Remember during an arrest and interrogation police officers can and will lie to you, they are not breaking any law in doing so.
It is in your best interest NOT to write or sign any statements. If you do your a strait up toy, and don’t deserve to be writing graffiti. At no point can a police officer ever make you a deal. They do not have the ability to ensure you of anything in the courts. They merely arrest individuals and assist in building cases. Anything beyond that is left to the District Attorney, your lawyer, and the Judge. Police officers hold NO POWER in regards to “agreements” or anything of the sort. So there is ABSOLUTELY, NO REASON to talk to them. They can not and will not help you. It is not their job to help you. In fact, if you are breaking the law, it is pretty much their job to fuck you over. By getting you to sign a statement admitting to even just one thing, it helps authorities build a case on you, and opens the floodgates for future incitements and arrest warrants.
A common misconception of a Plea Bargain is that someone snitched, which is usually not the case. By definition, a plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case whereby the prosecutor offers the defendant the opportunity to plead guilty, to either a lesser charge or to the original criminal charge with a recommendation of a lighter than the maximum sentence. For example if you have ever been to court and received a conditional discharge, pleaded no-contest or been ordered to pay a fine to get a charge dropped then you have accepted guilt to a crime for a lesser sentence. Plea bargaining is a significant part of the criminal justice system in the United States; the vast majority (roughly 90%) of criminal cases in the United States are settled by plea bargain rather than by a jury trial. In certain circumstances plea bargains can include co-operating with and give information to the District Attorney. In such cases the details of the agreement will be transcribed in the court records (ie: they will most likely be public record.)
Often in graffiti cases with long term investigations, writers face charges from multiple counties and jurisdictions. For example: In New York writers can be charged with cases in Manhattan, Queens, theBronx and Brooklyn. These are separate counties, and as such, they carry separate sentences. With a proper lawyer you can attempt to reach a “Global Solution” . This is when your lawyer and the D.A.’s of all concerned counties agree to one sentence, run concurrently. Global solutions can only be made within state lines. For Example: If you have multiple cases in New York, a global solution can not be reached with other cases in Boston. The only way this is possible is if you are in Federal Courts.
A very interesting dynamic of a graffiti case is that often an offender is not charged with every tag they have done in a city. To cover your ass from future legal problems you absolutely MUST inform your lawyer to make sure that as part of your plea, prosecutors agree to not go forward with any additional charges concerning incidents that occurred before your indictment (as seen in the last paragraph of the paperwork below). Without such an agreement from the DA, authorities can (and very likely will) arrest you after you receive/serve your sentence, and run you back through the system all over again on “new” charges. This HAS and WILL continue to happened to writers who do not seek out proper legal representation.
*Above are actual Supreme Court Minutes (they are the word for word transcript of what was said in court recorded by a court reporter) SCI stands for Supreme Court Indictment
Unless your plea states something similar to the above paperwork, you probably should reconsider taking it. A plea bargain is supposed to, in some way, benefit both parties involved. The court system is benefited by not having to spend the time, money and resources involved with a jury trial. If you are at the point where you are having to plead guilty, the only way you can really benefit is by minimizing your losses. Why dig your hole even deeper by leaving yourself open to further prosecution.
The long and short of it is, if your gonna write graffiti (or do anything illegal, for that matter) know how to handle yourself when things get hectic. Have a plan. Have a lawyer. If you are arrested, don’t say or do anything without consulting with him. Oh, and if your the type who’s ready to sign a statement because you don’t wanna spend the night in a precinct because you’re afraid to miss work the next day, well then maybe you’re in the wrong profession.