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The Daily Tar Heel

Chandler Kania defense lawyers move to delay trial date and suppress iPhone evidence

Judge Allen Baddour has yet to make a ruling on the iPhone evidence.

Chandler Kania leaves his pre-trial hearing at the Orange County Courthouse on Aug. 16.

Chandler Kania leaves his pre-trial hearing at the Orange County Courthouse on Aug. 16.

Authorities say Kania was driving drunk on the wrong side of Interstate 85 in July 2015 when he was involved in a head-on collision, killing three people and injuring a fourth.

One of Kania’s defense lawyers, Roger Smith Jr., filed two motions that were heard in front of Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour and Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Neiman. The first was a motion to suppress evidence found on Kania’s iPhone, and the second was to postpone the trial date currently scheduled for October 3.

In his testimony, Sgt. John Collins of the N.C. Highway Patrol said Kania’s mother told him that she had been contacted by Kania’s friends through his cell phone.

Collins said one of Kania’s fraternity brothers reported he had taken Kania’s phone on the night of the crash in an attempt to keep him from leaving the Sigma Phi Epsilon parking lot. The phone was not found on Kania at the scene of the crash.

A search warrant was drafted for the phone that gave officers the right to search Kania, his parents and any others in Kania’s hospital room for July 23, the day of Kania’s release. When Trooper Michael Stuart arrived at UNC Hospitals, Kania’s parents said the phone was in their Asheboro home and they were willing to retrieve it, Stuart said.

Stuart sent a former Randolph County trooper Christopher Azelton to retrieve it from the Kania home in Asheboro. Azelton contacted Michael Kania, the defendant’s father, over the phone.

According to Azelton’s testimony, he said he would come by their home an hour after the phone call so that the Kanias had time to back up the phone.

Michael Kania, the defendant’s father, handed over the phone to the trooper without argument in the driveway of his home, despite the search warrant being for Kania’s hospital room. Azelton said he never entered the Kania home.

Smith said the evidence should be thrown out due to improper service of the search warrant.

“Michael Kania being searched in Asheboro is clearly outside the scope,” Smith said. “The fatal flaw is that you can’t search somebody with a search warrant for a hospital room in Orange County, in Asheboro.”

The state defended keeping the phone evidence because the search warrant was valid and the iPhone was handed over to authorities consensually and without improper search.

Richard Myers, a professor at the UNC School of Law with no personal connection to the case, said a warrant has to specifically say the place to be searched or the items to be seized.

However, he said not all searches take place pursuant to a warrant and that they can also take place with permission.

Myers said if someone offers to retrieve evidence, then they are volunteering it. The police don’t necessarily have to have a warrant in that situation.

Myers said the judge will have to decide whether the place that was searched and the items seized were within the four corners of the warrant, and whether or not the phone was given up voluntarily.

Judge Baddour has not yet ruled on the permissibility of using the iPhone evidence in court.

Kania’s defense also filed a motion to postpone the trial past the Oct. 3 date due to a potential conflict with a witness. Judge Baddour denied the motion.

Roger Smith later said anything is possible when it comes to settling out of court or going to trial.

In a press conference after the hearing, Wade Smith, one of Kania’s defense attorneys, said Kania and his family have struggled emotionally.

“The (Kania) family is appropriately keeping in mind the victims,” Wade Smith said. “They talk about that all the time; they will never be OK.”

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