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“When The Truth Really Matters”

Forensic Technologies, Inc. Ensures Attorneys Aren’t Leaving Anything to Chance When it Comes to Mobile Device Forensics and Cell Tower Mapping

“We have our whole lives on our phones. People really don’t do anything without their phones. The amount of data stored within mobile devices is enormous, who’s talking to whom, where are they or have they been?” says James Kitt, Chief Technology Officer at Forensic Technologies, Inc. (FTI). To that end he says, “We want to make sure that attorneys aren’t leaving anything on the table when it comes to their cases. They don’t always understand exactly how much power they have at their fingertips.” Furthermore, he can’t emphasize just how important it is to have a comprehensive mobile device forensic examination conducted early on, as part of the attorney’s case strategy.
To explain the difference between a standard forensic examination and those conducted by FTI, Kitt says “I know it sounds cliché but, we really do go the extra mile for our clients. We don’t just push a button and hand over results. We dig deep in the data to ensure our clients have the most complete view of their case, and most evidence available. We have more mobile device forensic platforms than any of our competitors. We offer JTAG for data recovery when other tools fail, and we’re the only company that we know of in San Diego or Orange County who offers this.”
As former Special Agent for the Virginia State Police, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and a former State Trooper for the Tennessee Highway Patrol, FTI’s Chief Executive Officer Darryl Bullens is no stranger to the legal system nor to the forensic technology space. He’s served as an expert witness time and again, and is highly regarded for his polygraph services, which he’s conducted nationwide. Similarly, Kitt is a former Military Police Officer, Intelligence Professional and Investigative Specialist. Both have been involved in forensic technology for years. But in early 2015, the two decided to focus their efforts primarily on mobile forensics, and Cell Tower Mapping as their expertise in these specific digital examinations have proven invaluable to attorneys, often revealing the proverbial “silver bullet” which makes or breaks a case.

When attorneys come to FTI for mobile forensic examinations, instead of running a tablet, iPod, or cell phone through the industry standard Cellebrite program, Kitt, Bullens and their team run an entire suite of programs on mobile devices for attorney clients in the practice areas of Personal Injury, Employment/ Corporate Law, Criminal Law, and Family Law. In addition to being Certified Examiners for Cellebrite UFED4PD, Oxygen Forensic Suite, Blacklight, and Lantern, they utilize programs including iOS Toolkit, MobileEdit, IEF (Mobile Artifacts, Business Application & OS Artifacts, and Triage Modules) and more. When necessary they are also certified in JTAG, Training through Teel Technologies. Moreover, the company is in process to be approved by the State Bar of California to provide MCLE Courses in the subject of Mobile Forensics and plan to offer a course on Cell Tower Mapping in the near future as well.
Kitt acknowledges that the science behind the data recovery is, frankly, unimportant and irrelevant to most attorneys. That’s why at FTI, Kitt says, “We take the tech out of technology. We position ourselves as an attorney’s computer. Nobody turns on their computer and wants to know exactly how a program is communicating with the motherboard. We are like the computer. We ‘talk’ to the device to retrieve data, and we relay the data in easy to understand reports or production to the client.”
For example, “We may have a Personal Injury attorney who has an injured client who was T-boned at a traffic light. In most cases the attorney would go through the normal processes of reconstructing the accident, checking road conditions, etc. However, if the attorney comes to us and requests a mobile forensic examination, we are able to determine to a large degree what activity was transpiring at the time such as checking emails on the phone, texting, what if any devices may have been plugged into the phone such as earphones. We can tell if navigation apps are running and if they are running on a Bluetooth or on speaker. We are not attorneys, but there are laws in place prohibiting distracted driving,” Kitt says.
Employment cases that have been resolved or dismissed as the result of the forensic examinations that FTI has conducted include a recent sexual harassment case wherein an employee accused her superior of inappropriate conduct. “The examination revealed that the supervisor had sent text messages to his employee, but there was nothing inappropriate in the text messages. According to Kitt, “This kind of thing happens more often than you’d think.” Unfortunately, he says that many companies facing similar claims choose to settle such cases, in order to avoid bad publicity, when for a fraction of the settlement they can potentially prove such an incident never occurred.
Fraud, Intellectual Property, and Trade Secret violations are also routinely uncovered by FTI during the course of a mobile forensic examination. Not surprisingly, their reputation and longevity in the forensic space has also earned them the business of government associations including the San Diego County Probation Department, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the U.S. Federal Probation Department, Imperial County Sheriff’s Department, Carlsbad Police Department, Oceanside Police Department, La Mesa Police Department, and many others.

Needless to say, there are times when evidence is revealed during FTI’s forensic examinations that is not in the attorney client’s favor. Whether a defense, prosecution, personal injury or other case no attorney wants to be blindsided with detrimental information on his or her client.
For that reason, FTI will notify the Attorney as quickly as possible, (rather than waiting the completion of the exam and the full report) to give the attorney the opportunity to address the issue(s) with their client. “This is why it’s so important for us to be brought in at the earliest possible time.” Kitt says. “It gives the attorney time to deal with these speed bumps in the case and decide whether justice will be served by proceeding in this manner, settlement, dismissal or other strategy”.
When the examination is concluded FTI will provide a relevant report in an easy to understand method of the attorney’s choice. “We can provide a verbal, PDF with links, an HTML report that opens only in a browser and not on the internet, and/or we’re happy to provide a report in an excel spreadsheet which can be imported to their e-discovery case programs such as LexisNexis® Concordance or others.”

Criminal cases in particular may rely heavily on Cell Tower Mapping, although it is often not used as thoroughly as it could be. “Attorneys aren’t getting what they could be getting from Cell Tower Mapping,” says Kitt. “Carriers will only provide the information that is requested and a subpoena generally doesn’t cover the necessary details needed to provide the best results.”
As such, attorneys can easily obtain court orders for cell phone records from carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and others to gain the required details. Unfortunately, according to Kitt, after receiving the records, many attorneys and/or their staff don’t know what to do with the data and those who take the time to try and figure it out, merely plug the results into Google Maps, which doesn’t tell the full story. “Attorneys need to be obtaining court order for Subscriber Detail Records. The carrier will only provide what you ask for, but there is much more information available. We provide attorneys with the precise language they need in order to get the court order for the Subscriber Detail Records. From there, we create a timeline which shows in motion exactly where a client is at what time.”
For example, in a recent case, FTI was engaged by a criminal defense attorney for their expertise in Cell Tower Mapping. “We were able to show that the attorney’s client, who was already charged with robbery and headed to trial, was 11.6 miles from the scene of the crime within 2 minutes of the commission. This evidence was shared with the DA’s office and charges were immediately dismissed,” Kitt says.
Not surprisingly, the experts at FTI have been called upon to testify as expert witnesses in the past. As such, in order to ensure integrity, FTI does not operate on a “pay if we find something system,” says Kitt. Instead, the cost for each device is a flat rate so that the client is not surprised by a bill in the end. “In some cases, a particular device or a complicated case may take an inordinate amount of time and we feel that the law of averages gives the client the best value.” However, they do not charge for phone calls, or emails and are happy to answer questions at no charge. “Whether an attorney hires us or not, we pick up the phone and answer their questions,” Kitt says. Moreover, FTI has helped attorneys working on Pro-Bono cases, without charging them either. Kitt laughs recalling the giant box of Omaha Steaks that arrived at FTI’s office recently after he and Bullens refused to accept payment from an attorney working a Pro-Bono case. In that case, the attorney asked the other side’s expert the questions Kitt and Bullens suggested she ask, and the judge consequently threw out the evidence that had earlier blindsided the attorney.

“We want attorneys to know that all too often they are only scratching the surface of what can be found in a thorough mobile forensic examination. So many attorneys are not getting what they could be getting from mobile forensics. What we do is a lot like the T.V. show CSI, but without the blood, and the case isn’t solved in an hour,” Kitt jokes.
But make no mistake, Kitt strongly encourages attorneys to begin mobile forensic evaluations and Cell Tower Mapping services early in their cases. “A full mobile forensic examination can take a week, and accurate Cell Tower Mapping can take 7-10 days. If there are multiple devices involved, it can take longer.”
Moreover, Kitt says that because FTI prepares every case as if it will be going to trial, it takes time to break down all of the details that have been discovered in the data very simply, so that judges and juries can digest the information easily. “We don’t want attorneys short-changing themselves by only having part of the information. Carrier reports don’t tell the full story. Cell phone companies only keep information that makes them money. Everything else is dumped after a couple of days in most cases. But the phone itself retains the data, and retrieving that data can make all of the difference in the world in a case.”

James Kitt Forensic Technologies, Inc.

Karen Gorden

Karen Gorden is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal.

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About the Author: Karen Gorden is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal.

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