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Monday, May 1, 2006

Duke Lacrosse Rape: Were Digital Photos tampered with?

updated: No the photos were not tampered with. Turns out there were multiple photographers and even some video of the party according to the NC Attorney General's report, dated April 27, 2007.

The following photo was leaked by someone on the defense team for the Duke Lacrosse players. It was first shown on The Abrams Report on MSNBC and then shown to other news organizations. It might be a key piece of evidence in the Duke Lacrosse rape case because it was reportedly taken at 12:41:32 a.m., on March 14, 2006.

This time was attributed to the the photo time stamp that was on the picture. It is supposed to show Crystal Gail Mangum (the accuser) getting into a black car (some reports said a Honda Accord) helped by a partygoer after the party. Ms. Mangum is in the passenger seat.

12:41:32 a.m.: accuser is getting into a black Honda Accord

12:41:32 a.m.: accuser is getting into a black Honda Accord

However, this photo evidence conflicts with the most recent statements from one of the key witnesses in the case that the defense also identified, Moez Mostafa.

Moez Mostafa owner of On Time Taxi
Moez Mostafa, owner of On Time Taxi, looks at the call records on his office computer in Durham, N.C., Thursday, April 20, 2006.

The cab driver, Moez Mostafa, says he took Duke University lacrosse player Reade Seligmann home from the lacrosse team party between 12:14 a.m. and 12:41 a.m. Later Mr. Mostafa says he got another call to pick up more people at the same 610 North Buchanan address.

Moez Mostafa told Time Magazine he returned to the house at 12:50 a.m. to pick up four more players (at rear of 610 N. Buchanan), whose identities are unknown, around the same time he claims to have seen Kim Roberts (the 2nd dancer) get into "an old white car."

Called in by investigators in the Duke rape case for the first time Tuesday, taxi driver Moez Mostafa told TIME in an exclusive interview, he stated he saw exotic dancer Kim Roberts exchange angry words with lacrosse players, enter "an old white car" and speed away from the scene. While Mostafa told Durham police detective and lead case investigator Benjamin Himan he could not swear a second dancer, who is accusing players of rape, was already in the car, it'’s clear from a subsequent 911 call and police dispatch transcript call that the two women were together.

The fact Mr. Mostafa said an old white car is a major unexplained discrepancy from the 12:41:32 photo showing Ms. Mangum being helped into a black or dark blue car (Honda?).

Reports have said the prosecution believes the 12:41:32 photo has had its time stamp altered and this photo is really one that shows Ms. Mangum arriving at the party before midnight. One indication of this fact is that the driver in the 12:41:32 photo does not look like Kim Roberts. Kim Roberts is the person who drove Ms. Mangum away from the lacrosse party at around 12:50 a.m.

From MSNBC, April 28th - Alibi photos for lacrosse players questioned:
Prosecutors reportedly claim prints were doctored, don't show correct time

Using his [Mr. Mostafa's] statement, prosecutors will probably attack the defense's claim that the alibis for the accused players -- the series of allegedly time-stamped photos taken by players the night of the party --— aren't what they seem. Seligmann, 20, and teammate Collin Finnerty, 19, have been charged with rape in the case.

The photos in question was taken, defense sources say, at approximately 12:41 a.m. and shows the accuser calmly being helped into a car to leave the party. Along with other time-stamped photos from earlier in the evening, defense attorneys will claim that there wasn't enough time for a rape to take place.

But prosecutors will argue, that photo actually shows the accuser being dropped off at the party, not leaving it, and that it was taken well before midnight. Prints taken from digital cell phone cameras have time stamps, but can be altered, digital photography experts told Time. Only the cameras themselves have true embedding time date to correspond with photos taken.

"If the prosecutor can discredit that photo, or one photo, their meanings are all suspect," another lawyer in Durham told Time.

From Slate.com, April 20, 2006, Are the Duke Lacrosse Photos Legit?:
Can the time stamp on a digital photo be altered?

...Within a span of about 20 minutes, the Explainer was able to download a utility called ExifTool from the Web and edit the time stamps on all his photos: Each and every one now appears to have been taken at 12:30 a.m. on the night of the Duke lacrosse team party.

If a lawyer wants to use time-stamp metadata in court, he'll be much better off if the police seized the digital camera that took the pictures. That way he can argue that the pictures on the camera couldn't have been modified, and he can also demonstrate that the clock inside the camera wasn't improperly set. He can also try to corroborate the time stamps with the images themselves: One of the photos in the Duke case purportedly shows a player's wristwatch with the time matching that given in the metadata.

Why the Duke Cabdriver Could Also Help the Prosecution [Time Magazine, April 26, 2006]
Duke Lacrosse Rape Timeline [TJN]

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