Tampering allegations at Cooper trial


During cross-examination of Gregory Johnson, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the defense pointed out that at least one was left on for 27 hours after it was seized. The laptop was connected to a wireless network the whole time.

Johnson admitted that the computers could have been handled better by Cary police, but denied anything happened to them.

"Did you ever find any evidence of files … being tampered with during your investigation?" asked Prosecutor Boz Zellinger.

"No, I did not," Johnson replied.

Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner ordered the courtroom camera turned off during Johnson's testimony to protect his identity.

Cooper is charged with killing his wife Nancy in 2008. Her body was discovered next to a storm water retention pond in an unfinished Cary subdivision July 14. An autopsy showed she was strangled. Cooper told detectives that his wife went out for a run the morning of July 12 and never returned.

Jurors also heard Tuesday that he logged into his computer four times between 10 p.m. and Midnight on July 11. He has previously said he was asleep with his daughters at that time - while Nancy was at a party across the street. Police contend Cooper killed her when she returned.

Johnson has also testified that Cooper was reading his wife's email in the months before she was found murdered. He said Nancy's Time-Warner email account was set to automatically forward a copy of any incoming messages to an email address associated with Brad's adventuresofbrad.com website. That's despite Brad's own testimony in a videotaped deposition in which he told a lawyer that he never used that email account.

Johnson said Nancy's emails included messages to her friends and an attorney helping her prepare a separation agreement.

The agent said he also found an email between Brad and Nancy in which she angrily accused him of having no appreciation of the amount of work she did caring for their two daughters and maintaining the household. She blasted him for not participating in household chores and said his contribution consisted only of cutting the grass and going to work.

Other messages Johnson said he found included a series of emails between Brad Cooper and two other women. One was Heather Metour - a former friend of Nancy's who Brad has admitted to having an affair with. The second is a French woman Brad met in early 2007 while in Paris for an overseas study trip arranged through his MBA program at NC State.

Also Tuesday, Judge Gessner sustained a defense objection to one piece of evidence found on the computer. It was a suicide website Cooper bookmarked which included information on asphyxiation - the method of Nancy Cooper's death.

Defense attorney Howard Kurtz told the judge: “Any relevance is substantially outweighed by the prejudicial impact.”

The prosecution argued that it was relevant because Cooper denied in his deposition that he had visited websites about suicide and that it shows he had knowledge of asphyxiation. The jury did not see that evidence.

Phone expert testifies

Johnson's testimony followed FBI electronics expert Chuck Wilmore, who testified Monday about Brad Cooper's cell phone. He said it was protected with sophisticated encryption software from Cisco and that all the contacts and call history had been deleted from the phone.

Wilmore said that could only happen if the user deleted the data or switched out the phones SIM card.

But while cross-examining Wilmore, Cooper attorney Howard Kurtz pointed out that many companies that provide cell phones to employees routinely delete data from them if they change users or fall into the wrong hands.

"There are programs in which you can remotely delete the information from a phone," Wilmore testified.

Video deposition

Also Monday, jurors finished watching Cooper answer specific questions about the morning his wife was reported missing. Cooper didn't testify in person. Instead, jurors saw a video of his deposition filmed in late 2008 when his late wife's parents were trying to win custody of his daughters.

Cooper said he did not see Nancy leave the house around 7 a.m. He testified that between 7 and 10 a.m. he played with his daughters, did laundry, and scrubbed the downstairs floors in his home on his hands and knees.

Asked about rearranged furniture in the home, Cooper said he moved the kitchen table and a large vase as he cleaned.

Cooper was asked about the place that his Nancy's body was found.

"Have you ever driven there?" asked attorney Alice Stubbs. "No," Cooper responded.

Asked how he knew the location, Cooper said he read about it in news coverage and said he had no interest in seeing it. Cooper said it was not a place Nancy usually went on her runs.

"I cannot imagine her running across that road," he said.

The video deposition was introduced into the trial through the testimony of Nancy's father Gary Rentz. He continued his stint on the witness stand after the tape was played with cross-examination by the defense.

Rentz said on the morning Nancy was reported missing, he did not get a phone call from Brad. Instead, he learned of it through his other daughter.

Rentz also talked about the Cooper marriage. He said an affair Brad had with a friend of Nancy's was a down point, but he said there were others and the couple failed to get along. Rentz said he offered to talk to Brad about the marriage in conversations with Nancy, but that never happened.

Prosecutors allege Brad killed Nancy because he was angry she planned to divorce him and move with their two daughters to Canada. Coopers lawyers say he is innocent and have characterized the investigation by the Cary Police Department as inept. They say detectives focused on Cooper from the beginning of their investigation and never looked at other suspects. Nancy's family did win custody of the Cooper children. They now live in Canada.

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