Have you ever taken your computer to Best Buy to have work done by The Geek Squad? If so, let’s hope that you had nothing incriminating on your computer because the Cyber Working Group for the FBI may have access to your information.
The prosecution of Mark Rettenmaier, a doctor from California came to light because he took his laptop to a local Best Buy. Best Buy then sent Dr. Rettenmaier’s computer to the Kentucky Geek Squad repair facility. It was then learned that the Geek Squad employee called the FBI’s Louisville field office to share the allegedly illegal material. We are left to wonder if one’s Fourth Amendment Rights are violated in this process. To gain insight into how this issue affects the Michigan criminal justice system, we spoke to several of the top criminal lawyers in our state.
Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has built a law firm that is known as the top criminal defense team in the state of Michigan. When asked for commentary, Grabel stated, “The issue we have to review is whether a defendant loses their expectation of privacy when they hand their computer over to a third party. There has been documentation that payments have been made to confidential Geek Squad informants. If this is the case, there is a concern for constitutional violations.”
William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and also a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates in Shiawassee County, Michigan. Amadeo is known as the top criminal defense lawyer in Washtenaw County. When asked about this issue Amadeo said, “Does anybody have an expectation of privacy any longer? How can we allow the Geek Squad to be an extension of the police? Forensic testing will become a pivotal issue moving forward and the question we will have to ask is how many people have had access to the computers involved. I’m guessing the Geek Squad did not do an investigation before presenting evidence to the FBI.”
Joe Brugnoli is a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates and is known as a top criminal defense attorney in Kent County, Michigan. When asked about this issue, Brugnoli was quoted as saying, “Coming from a background of law enforcement before becoming a defense lawyer, this issue is very disturbing. This issue presents a chain of custody issue that will lead to motion practice. This is not good for judicial economy and presents a potential violation of one’s constitutional freedom.”
While the Geek Squad may have the intent to protect society with their actions, their actions are a clear threat to the freedom of their customers. If the technician views what they believe to be illegal material, they have no way of knowing how this material was obtained. When the information is sent to Kentucky and then to the FBI, we are faced with a scenario where a prosecution can occur without an investigation.
For other takes on this issue, visit this link to see an article written by Aaron Mackey.