A South Florida man on trial for a series of bank robberies has launched a unique criminal defense this week by demanding that the National Security Agency (NSA) turn over his phone records, according to a report from the Orlando Sun-Sentinel.
The criminal defendant, 40-year-old Terrance Brown, is currently facing felony criminal charges for armed robbery in a federal court in Fort Lauderdale, but he claims his phone records will ultimately prove his innocence.
Brown is one of five men who have been accused of conspiring to rob armored trucks delivering cash to banks in 2010, but he and his cohorts have all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
During his prolonged trial, federal prosecutors have tried to use Brown’s cellphone records to prove that he was near the armed robberies when they occurred.
Their case has been strengthened by testimony from Nathaniel Moss, who is serving a life sentence after confessing to the murder of an armed truck guard during one of the robberies, but has also testified against his co-conspirators, sources say.
But Brown’s criminal defense attorney believes that Brown’s cellphone records actually show that his client was nowhere near one of the alleged bank robberies, according to reports.
This particular robbery, which took place on July 26, 2010, in Lighthouse Point, Florida, has also been pinned on Brown, but the prosecution claims they couldn’t obtain Brown’s phone records because his carrier, MetroPCS, had not kept them.
In response, Brown’s defense lawyer argued that the government should be forced to hand over Brown’s phone data because it may prove that he was not present at the July 26 robbery.
The request comes on the heels of the revelation that an NSA surveillance program has been tracking phone data for several years.
According to Brown’s attorney, the “president of the United States has recognized this program has been ongoing since 2006 … to gather the phone numbers [and related information] of everybody including my client in 2010.”
Before ruling on the request, U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum will give prosecutors a few weeks to issue a response, and prosecutors have to tread carefully because there are “security procedures that must be followed,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Walleisa.
And another prosecutor noted that the information may be irrelevant because Brown may not have been carrying a phone at the time of the robbery.
Still, the defendant’s request is a fascinating glimpse into a tactic that may be used by future criminal defendants if Brown has any success.