COURT WATCH: Digital Expert Testimony Reveals Inadequate Efforts to Investigate Social Media Evidence in Ajay Kumar Dev Case

By Kristin Trent

WOODLAND, CA – Yolo County Superior Court Wednesday heard testimony from Digital Media Expert Brian Chase regarding evidence that may help the credibility of the complaining witness in the original 2009 case against Ajay Kumar Dev.

Despite mounting pressure to consider his innocence, Dev has served 14 years of his 378-year sentence for the serial rape of his adopted daughter.

Current trial proceedings reevaluate Dev’s conviction and investigate wrongly exhibited evidence used to convict him in the original trial.

Digital Media Expert Chase stipulated the identities behind two Facebook accounts seen in “Exhibit K,” a series of screenshots depicting a conversation Dev’s brother had with the two accounts.

As previously reported by The Vanguard, Dev’s attorney, Jennifer Mouzis, noted the messages between the account with the alleged victim’s name and Dev’s brother had attempted to extort money from Dev in exchange for dropped charges.

During the expert testimony, Chase cited the account numbers associated with the Facebook handles. He asserted the account named “MD-52” held account number 5696 and a secondary account—vanity name unspecified—was numbered 9219. This account was later deleted.

Asked by Mouzis if the two accounts could have both belonged to the alleged victim, Chase responded, “It is possible, but would need further investigation.”

During his own forensic investigation of the evidence, Chase noted he saw no evidence of law enforcement endeavoring to investigate the identities behind the Facebook accounts.

Chase’s testimony largely focused on the lack of effort taken by law enforcement during the initial investigation to determine the identity behind the Facebook accounts.

“I’ve seen law enforcement do this many times and anyone with digital forensics training should have that foundational knowledge,” said Chase.

When asked about the potential of lost evidence, Chase said it is “a lot of work” to entirely delete search history and there are multiple ways for an investigator to locate those files even after they’ve been deleted.

He continued, posing solutions for investigators to make identity determination, explaining, “If you log into a device to use Facebook, there are multiple ways to retrieve evidence.”

“Law enforcement can (also investigate) the email account to determine if authentic messages were sent,” Chase added.

Deputy District Attorney Steve Mount questioned Chase about the authenticity of the messages entered into evidence.

“I would have a lot of questions; screenshots can be easily manipulated,” Chase said.

Upon redirect, DPD Mouzis clarified before the court the messages have been authenticated.

The next hearing, scheduled for Feb. 26, will include witness testimony.

More information about Ajay Kumar Dev’s case is available through The Vanguard.

About The Author

Kristin Trent recently graduated from UC Davis with a degree in English. She is currently involved in production of Davis Media Access's local radio station KDRT 95.7 FM and hosts DCTV's In The Studio Series in addition to her work for The Vanguard. Currently pursuing a full-time position as a journalist, she is deeply devoted to environmental and social justice journalism.

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