Backlog for cell-phone decryption could delay brothers’ assault trial
A June 2 trial week date for brothers Anthony Resetarits and Joseph Resetarits could be delayed again, Judge Carl Bauman said Monday at a hearing in Kenai Superior Court. At issue are delays in having iPhone brand cell phones decrypted by Apple Inc.
Some iPhones seized by Alaska State Troopers have security codes that owners haven’t provided, and for privacy reasons Apple has to process the cell phones. At a February hearing, Joseph Resetarits’ attorney, Michael Mobley, said that could take up to six months.
Phillip Weidner, Anthony Resetarits’ Anchorage attorney, also has filed motions to dismiss the indictment against his client and for relief due to violation of constitutional rights under Alaska Criminal Rules of Procedure.
Assistant District Attorney Kelly Lawson has until May 27 to respond to those motions.
Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters said Apple has told troopers not to send the phones to them until Apple is ready to search the phones.
According to a May 2013 article by Cnet.com, the high demand nationally for Apple to decrypt iPhones has created a police waiting list. Cnet said it’s unknown if Apple has a “back door” that allows police to serve search warrants and get iPhone data, or if Apple is just more skilled at decryption than police.
Anthony Resetarits, 22, and Joseph Resetarits, 19, are charged with one count each of second-degree assault. In charging documents, Alaska State Troopers said the men sexually assaulted with an object a teenage boy at a September 2012 East End Road drinking party. They pleaded not guilty at an October 2012 arraignment.
From 60 to 80 teenagers and adults were at the party, including members of Homer High School sports teams. Troopers seized cell phones from people who took photos of the assault. Peters said she did not know how many cell phones were seized and how many are iPhones. She referred such queries to the Alaska Department of Law. Lawson did not reply by press time for clarification on the number and kind of cell phones seized and search warrants issued.
Bauman was to have written a letter asking Apple to move the trooper search request up the waiting list, but said Monday he had not done that. Weidner said a June 2 trial date is not realistic because of the delay in processing cell phones.
Shaun Sehl of the Office of Victim Rights spoke for the victim’s mother, and said they are opposed to continuing the trial date. Their request is to have the trial held sooner rather than later and before the end of the year.
Bauman, the lawyers and the prosecutor discussed moving the trial to Aug. 4, but Lawson said that is not a realistic date because of her schedule. Weidner asked for the trial to be held after that when Lawson would be available, possibly in October.
The Resetarits brothers did not attend Monday’s hearing telephonically because they were commercial fishing. The next hearing is set for 3:30 p.m. May 28.
Both defendants “need to be on the phone then,” Bauman said. “I don’t care what their fishing schedule is.”
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