Welcome to part two of Amelia Summarizes Explosive Legal Bombshells In Terms Us Plebes Can Understand! Yesterday, I broke down the Undisclosed podcast’s revelation of a massive Brady violation in the case against Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. That Brady violation involved the Baltimore police and prosecutors’ office failing to disclose to the defense an anonymous tip that was made to the Crime Stoppers’ hotline on February 1, 8-9 days before Lee’s body was found, and nearly two weeks before the “official” February 12 anonymous tip discussed at trial.
The February 1 tipster implicated Syed in Lee’s disappearance, which then kickstarted the police’s pursuit of Syed as the sole suspect, providing context for the steps taken in their investigation in the days after — and, as the reward payout in November 1999 would indicate, led to Syed’s arrest and indictment. Except the February 1 tip was never disclosed to the defense or referred to at trial, so while it clearly influenced the state’s investigation and prosecution of Syed, his attorneys were literally prevented from investigating it, which completely violates Syed’s right to a fair trial. As I said in yesterday’s post, evidence of this egregious Brady violation, once provided to the court in Maryland, should guarantee Syed a new trial.
Evidence of a Brady violation this concrete is amazing news for Syed, his legal team and his loved ones — and that’s without even knowing the content and source of the tip itself. Now that this information has come to light, we shouldn’t be in the dark about the rest of it for much longer. While Crime Stoppers fields these tips on behalf of the police and facilitates reward payouts, they don’t actually retain records of those tipsters’ identities or the details of the tips themselves. However, they do pass that information along to the police, and the prosecution has full access to the entire police investigation. So while all Crime Stoppers may have on file is a record of when the tip came in (Feb. 1), when the reward was paid (November) and for how much ($3075), all other details are retained by the state’s attorney’s office, the city police and the county police and can be subpoenaed by an attorney. Trust that Syed’s lawyers will be requesting that information and the state’s attorney’s office will have to comply.
In the meantime, based on the timing of the tip, the subsequent investigatory steps taken by the police, their notes from the investigation, and the timing of the reward payout, Undisclosed Rabia Chaudry, Susan Simpson and Colin Miller presented their theory on who made that February 1 call – JAY WILDS. Here’s my best attempt at breaking down, in layman’s English, why that is…
The tipster’s information must have pointed the police towards Adnan. First of all, it’s important to note that in addition to being a Brady violation, omitting this tip from the official record of the investigation and at trial is just straight up SUSPICIOUS AS FUCK. Remember, the tipster was eventually paid for providing information that led to the arrest and indictment of Adnan Syed. Yet this information was never used to support the state’s case. While we wait to learn what that tip’s content was, some information can be gleaned from the police’s next steps in the immediate days after receiving the tip. According to the Undisclosed team, the Baltimore County detective leading the investigation into Lee’s disappearance (remember, her body was not found until February 9) was Detective O’Shea, whose notes (which were actually, as it turns out, not actually written until February 15 — one of the many examples of the police waiting days and even weeks to write down notes for important interviews in this investigation) dictated that he did the following:
- February 1:The same day as the anonymous tip, O’Shea visited Woodlawn High School, where Syed and Lee were students, and presented the school’s French teach, Hope Schab — who ends up working as a sort of liason between the police, the school and the students — with a list of questions to ask students that directly relate to Adnan and Hae’s relationship, including the question, “Do you know where Adnan and Hae used to go to hook up?”
- February 1: Also that day, Detective O’Shea calls Adnan, apparently to go over the phone conversation Syed had with Officer Adcock on the day of Lee’s disappearance. Adcock had claimed that Syed had told him that Lee was supposed to give him a ride after school, but that he was running late and she likely took off when he didn’t show up. But when O’Shea recounted this part of Adcock’s notes, Adnan stopped him and said h had NOT said that, and in fact had his own car that day and did not ask Lee for a ride.
- February 3:Syed’s criminal records are subpoenaed. No one else’s records are requested over the course of the investigation or prosecution.
- February 4:The police have their last contact with Don, Lee’s current boyfriend, and “corroborate” his alibi for January 13. By that I mean, they “confirmed” Don’s claim that he was working at LensCrafters that afternoon — by calling the manager of an entirely different location. (BTW, I am not suggesting Don killed Lee — I am, however, suggesting that at this stage of the investigation, it is very odd that Don was not treated as seriously as Adnan as a potential suspect.)
- February 9: Lee’s body is found in Leakin Park. The case is turned over to homicide as it is no longer a missing person’s case, and Det. O’Shea briefs Detectives Ritz and McGillivary about what has been discovered so far. Remember, at this point in the official police timeline, Syed is not yet a suspect, and according to McGillivary’s trial testimony, he does not recall O’Shea mentioning any important conversations with Syed.
- February 9: That same day, after being brief by O’Shea, McGillivary subpoenas Syed’s cellphone records.
- February 11: The police do a motor vehicle database search for the registration details for Syed’s Honda Accord.
- February 12:An anonymous tip tells the police to “look at the boyfriend” and references someone named “Yassir.” This tip is disclosed to the defense and is considered by them to be the day that Adnan Syed became the focus of the police’s investigation.
The tipster’s information couldn’t have been particularly detailed OR corroborated. While we don’t yet know the exact content of the tip, it’s pretty obvious that the person couldn’t have known much, if anything at all, about Lee’s whereabouts. After all, if the person had told the police where, say, her car was or that she was dead and where her body was dumped, the police would have followed those leads. Yet nothing they did between February 1-9 indicates that the tipster’s info was helpful to the investigation — perhaps because what little details they did reveal could not be corroborated. Yet for some reason this tipster got paid.
The content of the February 12 tip suddenly looks both very convenient and suspicious. The Undisclosed team is pretty confident in their belief that the February 12 tip was called in by the same person, though conveniently through an untraceable number, and likely contained similar info to the February 1 tip, but with information that did not contradict what they had learned through their under-the-radar investigation into Adnan’s alibi. So what do we know about the February 12 tip?
- The tipster called twice after 3 p.m. Detective Massey wrote that at 3:19 p.m. he received a call from “an Asian Male 18-21 years old, who advised investigators should concentrate on the victim’s boyfriend.” It is unclear how Massey knew the caller was an “Asian male, 18-21 years old.”
- The tipster claims that Syed and Lee would go to Leakin Park to hook up, though no one has confirmed that as true, and also referred to Lee as Syed’s girlfriend, but that they had been broken up for a week before her disappearance. Syed and Lee had actually been broken up for three weeks on January 13.
- The tipster mentions a friend of Syed’s named “Yassir,” saying that a year before, Adnan had told “Yassir” that if he was going to hurt his girlfriend, “he would drive her car into a lake.” I’ll get into more specifics on this in a bit, but it’s important to note that Lee’s car was still missing as of February 12, and yet police did not take this tip seriously enough that they, you know, searched any lakes.
- Detective Massey’s notes refer to Adnan as “the suspect.” Again, according to the police timeline, this tip was the first thing that made them even begin to pursue Adnan as a possible suspect — it is odd that Massey would refer to Adnan as “the suspect” when the detectives had not even had a chance to pursue the tipster’s leads.
When the police later interviewed Yassir, clearly hoping he would corroborate the February 12 tip, they manipulated his words. Yassir, a friend of Adnan’s, says that when the police interviewed him on February 15, they asked him if he and Adnan “thought alike.” Yassir answered yes. According to Yassir, the detectives then asked where he would abandon a car if he was going to get rid of it — and Yassir answered that he would likely leave it in the city. So, Yassir was not explicitly asked if Adnan ever said anything about dumping a car in a lake, and when he was asked where he would get rid of a car, Yassir never mentioned anything about a lake. Lee’s car, of course, was eventually found on a residential street near some row houses on February 28, when Jay Wilds allegedly led police to it.
Speaking of Jay, he has a few things in common with the February 12 tipster. As I mentioned earlier, the Feb. 12 tipster said that Syed and Lee had been broken up for a week before their disappearance. That was inaccurate — they had been broken up for three weeks. But you know who else thought they had only been broken up for a week? Jay. In addition, Yassir — one of Syed’s friends from the mosque — was someone Jay knew.
Detective Massey conveniently became unreachable when Cristina Guttierez tried to contact him about testifying at trial. Guttierez wanted to admit Massey’s February 12 memo about the anonymous tip and question him about it, in order to make the case that the police focused solely on Adnan as a suspect based on that tip, but as she told the judge, he was impossible to reach. In a clip played on Undisclosed, Guttierez explains that she has tried to get in contact with Massey on multiple occasions in order to serve him with a summons, but he couldn’t be found and his supervisor has been unhelpful. The judge then told Ulrick that he needed to help Guttierez get in contact with Massey, to which Ulrick initially objected, saying that he didn’t think “Massey would be helpful.” The judge didn’t care what Ulrick thought, so suddenly Ulrick became incredibly helpful, and submitted the February 12 memo into evidence himself and Massey never testifies at trial or is questioned about the memo. Why did Massey go out of his way to avoid Guttierez? And why would Ulrick be nervous about Massey testifying?
And then there’s the oddly specific amount for the reward and what it might have been used for. According to the Undisclosed team, the answer may be right there in the detectives’ notes. So, Jay Wilds was interviewed four times, that we know of anyway, by police — February 28, March 15, March 18 and April 14. On March 18, Jay went on a ride along, taking the detectives through the route he and Syed allegedly took on January 13. The police notes include the following seemingly unrelated mentions:
- A reference to a “Mr. Brown” selling a Suzuki motorcycle, 600 CCs, with 9000 miles on it
- The words “private investigator,” “going to discredit” and “reward”
On March 23-24, the detectives went to Woodlawn High School to interview various teachers and staff members, all but one of whom knew or taught Syed and thus had a reason to be interviewed. The one person who stood out from the rest? Carl Brown, Jay’s soccer coach, who did not know Syed, Lee or anything about the case. There are also police notes for all of the interviews with the staff from those two days, except one — Mr. Brown. In place of notes, the police file contained two printouts of Kelly Bluebook information for Suzuki motorcycles matching the description Jay gave about the motorcycle Brown was selling on March 18. Based on standard depreciation calculations, its expected resale value was approximately $3,000.
Later, a private investigator interviewed Brown about what the police had asked him, and he said he didn’t recall them asking about the motorcycle. However, Detectives Ritz and McGillivary were not alone with Brown during their interview — an attorney named Vicky Wash, who was helping to facilitate the teacher/staff interviews, was also present. The Undisclosed team suspects that the detectives decided not to ask Brown about the motorcycle because she was there. Again, Brown had no connection to Hae or Adnan — it’s unclear why he was ever interviewed at all.
Back to the motorcycle! On April 7, Stephanie, Jay’s girlfriend, was interviewed by the detectives. She told them that Jay was planning on buying a motorcycle and financing it. Earlier this year, in his interview with the Intercept, Jay mentioned learning to ride a motorcycle in 1998-1999. Brown’s motorcycle was eventually sold to someone other than Jay, but the police notes and what we know from Stephanie clearly point to Jay being at least interested in possibly purchasing Brown’s motorcycle — if only he had the money…
To be clear, the Undisclosed team’s contention is that Jay called in the February 1 tip after he saw that Crime Stoppers was offering a reward for information on Hae Min Lee’s disappearance — not because he necessarily knew anything about where she was, but because he was hoping that if he anonymously gave the police a tip, he would have a shot at collecting the reward. Jay never ended up purchasing Brown’s bike, but by November, after the anonymous tipster had been paid, Jay — who always needed to borrow people’s cars to get around — had a vehicle of his own.
Why did it take so many months after Syed’s arrest and indictment for the reward to be approved? Crime Stoppers rewards are usually approved shortly after an arrest/indictment, and then the lead detective is required to attend the next monthly Crime Stoppers meeting before the tipster is contacted and date/location is selected so that the reward can be paid — IN CASH. Based on when Adnan was arrested and indicted, the Feb. 1 tipster should have gotten their reward by mid April. Instead, that reward wasn’t paid until November, which means it wasn’t approved until sometime in September. What took so long? Did anything happen in September that might have finally led the tipster’s reward to be approved? Well, in September, Jay was charged for his role in disposing of Lee’s body, and on September 7, a plea deal was reached that secured Jay as a witness for the prosecution and included no jail time.
My hunch, if this is theory is true, is that Jay made the February 1 tip, pointing the police at Adnan. When the police pulled Adnan’s cellphone records, they were led to Jen, and Jen led them to Jay, who — WHOOPS — had Adnan’s cell and car for a big portion of January 13. Suddenly, Jay’s bullshit tip to police gave them ammunition against him, and thus he went along with their agenda, adapting his story with their help so that it fit their case against Adnan. Jay finally got his reward — but not until his plea deal, which included testifying against Adnan, was a lock.
Think this sounds crazy? Actually, Crime Stoppers rewards are often used by police to give cover to an informant and to coerce reluctant witnesses by giving them a reward under an anonymous system. Given that Jay was the prosecution’s star witness, if it turns out that the February 1 tipster was indeed him, not only is that a massive Brady violation that should guarantee a new trial, but it calls into question the integrity of Jay’s testimony and more than likely further impeaches him. If that is the case, it would make no sense for the prosecution to pursue a new trial without Jay’s testimony, and Adnan Syed could very well be released.
Original by @xoamelia