Shortly after jurors in the ongoing drug conspiracy trial of former Virgin Islands premier Andrew Fahie took their mid-morning break around 10:30 a.m. on Monday, defence attorney Theresa Van Vliet had an announcement for Judge Kathleen Williams.
“Barring something bizarre in the next couple of days, Mr. Fahie will not be testifying,” the lawyer said.
The disclosure was among the biggest news that came out of the court proceedings on Monday, which otherwise featured largely procedural matters: explanations from technical experts; lengthy reviews of text messages and other communications between Mr. Fahie and others; and complaints from jurors who felt the trial was taking too long.
Today or tomorrow, however, could be explosive: Oleanvine Maynard, the former managing director of the BVI Ports Authority and Mr. Fahie’s alleged co-conspirator, is expected to testify soon.
The defence — which, unlike the prosecution, did not publicly file its list of prospective witnesses in advance — is expected to present its case after the prosecution rests, which could occur as early as Wednesday.
During the previous five days of trial, Judge Williams had been concluding each day’s testimony at around 2:30 p.m. each day to accommodate jurors who lacked childcare after that time.
However, one juror’s frustration became apparent when she wrote a note to the judge expressing that she and others were “deeply upset” that the “trial was being drawn out for no reason.” Another juror wrote a note expressing concern that witnesses might be present in the courtroom watching other witnesses’ testimony.
In addressing the matter, Judge Williams concluded that jurors didn’t appear to be discussing the trial “substantively” amongst themselves, which is prohibited before the case has closed and deliberations formally begin.
Still, she said the conversations were a cause for concern, particularly from jurors who thought the case should move faster.
“They talk about how they think it should be zippier, and that is, in essence, a comment on the evidence,” the judge said.
The juror who was frustrated about the trial’s pace was questioned individually in open court and confirmed that the jurors had talked about their “time” but not about the case itself.
Judge Williams asked the juror to have patience and noted that she had tried to work around scheduling concerns even though she was not required to do so.
“I indicated that this would not be like television shows or other cultural media, so really there would be no frame of reference for how long a case should last,” she said.
She added that the “right to a speedy trial belongs to the litigants, not the jurors.”
After consulting with the prosecution and the defence, Ms. Williams asked the jury to refrain from similar conversations in the future and resumed the trial.
As the trial continued, the testimony picked up from last Thursday, when Mr. Cortes had walked jurors through the digital forensic analysis he performed on the electronics in the case, which included a cellphone and laptop taken from Mr. Fahie and three cell phones each taken from the Maynards.
On Monday, Mr. Cortes testified that the digital forensics process begins with “extracting” the data from a device — removing the raw data without altering it — and then “parsing” it by breaking it down into simpler formats such as call logs, contacts, texts, documents, and audio and video files.
The first step once a phone or computer is seized or surrendered is to isolate it from the network so that it can’t be remotely erased, Mr. Cortes said. Then, using software tools such as Cellbrite, Magnet Axiom, MSAB XRY and GREY KEY, the analyst performs the extraction and then the parsing, he added.
The authenticity of the extracted and parsed data is verified by examining the data’s “hash,” a type of digital fingerprint, the witness explained.
The outcome of the process is an “extraction report” which summarises the information recovered from the device.
One such report for one of Mr. Maynard’s phones came to 124 pages and covered the period March 6, 2022, to April 28, 2022, Mr. Cortes said.
His testimony was a way for the government to formally enter several hundred pages of messages and transcripts of recorded phone calls into the legal record.
Over several hours on Monday, jurors flipped through large three-ring binders with printed copies of the extracted materials.
At the same time, Mr. Cortes was on hand to authenticate the evidence and explain the time stamps and other aspects of the information presented.
Most of the messages, which were flashed briefly on computer screens and were only visible to members of the court gallery for a short time, appeared to deal with the logistics of setting up meetings between the Maynards, Mr. Fahie and the DEA confidential source known as “Roberto Quintero.”
Several involved what prosecutors have alleged were Ms. Maynard’s coded references to Mr. Fahie, who prosecutors have said used the nickname “Head Coach.”
In one message, Ms. Maynard allegedly wrote, “Give you draft pick for Head Coach of the basketball team.”
Another allegedly stated, “Head Coach want to play with the team this season.”
Other texts were peppered with religious references such as “blessings,” “glory to God,” “God is control,” and “God is with us.”
As Mr. Cortes’ testimony stretched into Monday afternoon, Judge Williams performed a last-minute change that was needed due to a scheduling conflict, she said.
She temporarily suspended Mr. Cortes’ testimony, scheduling him to come back on Tuesday. In his place, prosecutors called Mr. Adams, another CBP analyst who specialises in digital forensic imaging.
He told the jury that he uses digital forensic software to create a mirror image of an electronic device and to parse the data and make it readable to humans.
“I was asked to support DEA with the multiple cell phone extractions,” he said.
The defence had no questions for Mr. Adams.
As the day unfolded with dry, repetitive testimony, Mr. Fahie sat quietly listening. During the mid-morning break, he smiled when he noticed a new face enter the courtroom: one of his supporters, Devon Osbourne.
Mr. Osbourne, a Virgin Islander and one-time unsuccessful Ninth District legislative candidate, greeted Mr. Fahie warmly, briefly grasping his hand.
Mr. Osbourne was one of three people — in addition to Mr. Fahie’s daughters, Kedisha and Khadija — who served as individual sureties to a $500,000 appearance bond that allowed Mr. Fahie to stay on home confinement while awaiting trial rather than being remanded into custody.