Gerbert trial includes forensic testimony

by Alex McRae

Technical testimony concerning digital images of alleged victims highlighted Thursday's proceedings in Coweta County Superior Court in the child molestation trial of Alexander Sean Gerbert.

The defendant faces 11 felony counts, including child molestation, aggravated sodomy, sexual battery, incest and sexual exploitation of children.

Coweta Superior Court Judge John Simpson is presiding. Coweta Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Kevin McMurry is lead prosecutor. Attorney McCall Calhoun is defending Gerbert.

Most of Thursday's testimony — which was shortened by a previously scheduled conflict — was given by Deputy Casey Mullis of the Coweta County Sheriff's Office. Mullis is a forensic specialist in digital equipment and media. He testified about how he had performed a forensic search on Gerbert's iPhone and a Mac Mini computer owned by Gerbert. Both devices contained lewd and pornographic images when seized by authorities.

Mullis' explained how forensic testing of the devices was performed and how data regarding the content of images or documents — called metadata — could be altered if the image was transferred between devices.

Mullis explained that even if someone attempted to delete data — including photographs — both the image and metadata showing the size of the image, when it was taken and on what device it was taken could often be recovered if the data was stored in what is called "allocated space" on a computer.

Mullis said that if an image or other data was deleted, it is still on the computer or digital device but stored on what is called "unallocated space." He explained that while images and documents could be recovered from unallocated space, metadata was not always recoverable, or partially recoverable.

The case dates back to 2010, and involves two young female relatives, then aged 9 and 15. Authorities began the investigation after hearing allegations from the 9-year-old girl. After the allegations were made, authorities executed a search warrant at Gerbert's Coweta County residence only to learn that Gerbert had fled the state. In February 2012 Gerbert was located in Illinois and later extradited to Coweta to face trial.

Testimony continues today at the Coweta County Justice Center in Newnan.

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