A video showing two brothers outside a home where a drug deal occurred was properly authenticated for trial, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.
Brothers Constantino and Nicholas Cejas appealed their convictions for conspiring to supply Brian Denny and other individuals in Indiana with over 500 grams of methamphetamine. They argued, in part, the video recorded by a pole camera near Denny’s Terre Haute home was inadmissible at trial because it was not properly authenticated.
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation filmed Constantino at Denny’s home on Feb. 8, 2011. They also recorded Constantino returning with his brother Nicholas on Feb. 14, 2011.
The second video shows the brothers arriving in a pickup truck then Nicholas walking to the back of the truck and getting into a toolbox that was attached to the bed of the vehicle. The recording also shows the brothers leaving the home and going to the toolbox before driving away.
Agents pulled the pair over and seized two guns and $8,000 in cash that was in the toolbox.
Denny testified that during the Feb. 14 visit, one of the brothers placed 4 ounces of methamphetamine in his microwave in exchange for $8,000.
On appeal, the brothers assert the video showing them outside Denny’s residence on Valentine’s Day should not have been admitted at trial because the government had not established a proper foundation to authenticate it.
The court rejected the argument in United States of America v. Constantino Cejas and Nicholas Ceja, 12-3896 & 13-1034. It pointed to trial testimony from Denny and FBI Special Agent Ed Wheele who both had the knowledge to support the finding that the video was what the government claimed.
Wheele confirmed that the pole camera was monitored throughout the investigation and was consistently producing accurate results. Also, the video was stamped with the precise date and time.
“The brothers give us no sound reason to doubt the video’s authenticity,” Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote for the court. “They do not argue, for example, that the scene depicted in the video did not occur outside of Denny’s home, or that they were not the individuals seen in the video. They fail to give us any reason to believe the video was spliced, or improperly altered in any way, or that the pole camera did not accurately record the events are they unfolded.”
Editor’s Note: The court indicates in a footnote that the brothers’ last names were spelled differently in the lower court and in their briefing before this court, the result of an administrative error. The correct spelling is Cejas. The 7th Circuit used both spellings throughout their opinion.