NEW YORK—Shortly after he got on the stand, prosecutors handed FBI agent Tom Kiernan an item called Government’s Exhibit 200. It was a Samsung 700z laptop wrapped in thick plastic wrap. Kiernan removed it, not without some difficulty, and inspected it.
Yes, Kiernan told prosecutor Timothy Howard, this was the computer he and two other federal agents had taken from Ross Ulbricht in October 2013. It was a prize so important they literally snatched it out from underneath him, before they even arrested Ulbricht.
On that day, a male and female agent started an argument in San Francisco’s Glen Park public library, to get Ulbricht’s attention. As soon as Ulbricht was distracted, another agent grabbed the open computer and gave it to Kiernan, who is an FBI computer specialist. Kiernan spent the next three hours doing “triage” on the machine. Without allowing it to go idle, and thus become encrypted, he took photographs, went through the browser history, and ultimately handed it off to another agent who imaged the hard drive.
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