Prosecutor Fighting for Admission of Cell Phone and Tower Evidence

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The Pima County Attorney’s Office wants to admit cell phone evidence in an armed robbery case from 2017, reported the Arizona Daily Independent. In February 2019, Judge Teresa Godoy suppressed the cell phone evidence and ruled it was obtained “without lawful authority.” However, this month, the county attorney’s office argued the judge “abused her judicial discretion” by not admitting the evidence.

In October 2017, police responded to an armed robbery and attempted carjacking, where two men were reportedly involved. One man fired on police and was shot and killed; the other, Paul Larry Gasbarri, fled in a pickup truck. When police caught up with the suspect, they confiscated a cell phone in his possession. According to the Daily Independent, investigators later obtained two search warrants allowing them to download the phone’s data and collect cell tower information. Prosecutor Mike Diebolt said the tower data connects the assailant to the armed robbery.

Although Gasbarri was indicted by a county grand jury and taken into custody, his lawyer filed a motion to suppress the cell phone and related evidence, arguing police unlawfully took the phone. According to Judge Godoy, “Because the phone was seized without seeming probable cause, it’s the order of the Court that the cell phone and any information seized from the phone are suppressed.” The judge also ruled the order applied to any cell tower data.

The Daily Independent reported that last week’s hearing was closed to the public due to COVID-19 precautions. Attorneys made their arguments by phone, and a decision is expected by early April.

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