BARRE — Convicted kidnapper Harley Breer Jr. was back in court Monday looking to preserve evidence he feels will help his defense against his latest charges.
Breer, 43, is representing himself in Washington County criminal court in Barre, where he faces numerous charges including sexual assault, domestic assault and burglary. He was convicted in 1999 in a high-profile kidnapping case and spent eight years in prison.
Breer is being held without bail at the prison in Springfield. He is accused of beating and raping a woman with whom he lived in November 2011. He allegedly stole her car and went on the run before being found in New Hampshire.
In court Monday, Breer pleaded not guilty to 19 counts of violating his conditions of release by writing to the woman he is alleged to have raped and beaten in 2011. He was to have been arraigned on the charges in August but invoked a provision in state law that allows a defendant to have 24 hours to review the charges before entering a plea. Breer said he had the information for only 10 minutes before being asked to make a plea.
According to the Vermont State Police affidavit for the newest charges, Breer wrote 51 letters from Jan. 17, 2012, until March 28, 2012, to his accuser and her friends, family and ex-husband, all with the intention that the information in the letters would get to the woman. Breer had been ordered earlier in January 2012 not to have contact with her.
The court time Monday was also used to address some of the motions Breer has filed in his case. Between Breer and the state, around 80 motions have been filed in connection with the current charges against Breer.
Breer is seeking the telephone records of a landline he and the woman used when the two lived together in Woodbury from June to November 2011. He said the phone records are relevant because they will show whom he and the woman were contacting and being contacted by during the time when some of the alleged incidents took place.
Judge Thomas Zonay said he would take the matter under advisement.
Breer is also seeking around 40 text messages sent between the woman and Vermont State Police Detective Aimee Nolan, an investigating officer in the case, from Dec. 22 until Dec. 29 in 2011.
State’s Attorney Tom Kelly said a forensic examiner with the Vermont State Police examined the phone Nolan was using in 2011 and didn’t find the text messages Breer was seeking. Kelly said there may have been text messages but that there is no record of them now.
Breer called Nolan to the stand to testify.
Nolan said she had been texting the woman during the course of the investigation. She said “in today’s day and age,” it’s standard procedure to exchange text messages with witnesses. Nolan acknowledged the text messages were subject to the discovery process for possible use as evidence but didn’t catalog or retain the messages because she didn’t know she had to.
Nolan said the text messages from the woman concerned the letters Breer was sending to her. The letters were used as evidence in the 19 charges Breer pleaded to Monday.
“It was just informing me of things that were happening throughout the investigation,” Nolan said.
In the final piece of the three-hour hearing, Breer called to the stand Craig Cantwell, director of the Southern Vermont Digital Forensics Laboratory in Brattleboro.
Cantwell testified that his lab can pull lost data off cellphones and computers and has been asked to retrieve data from electronic devices in past court cases.
Cantwell said his lab pulled data off the cellphone Breer was using in 2011. While Breer asked Cantwell if his phone, which has been in the state’s custody since Breer’s arrest in 2011, looked as if it had been tampered with, Cantwell wouldn’t go that far.
“We found some strange things in there,” he said. “Strange time stamps in places that really shouldn’t be there. Dates like 1980 and 1970, and we were finding them on files that just didn’t make sense. ... It’s the lab’s opinion that something has happened to it, not necessarily tampering as much as something’s not right.”
Breer said there should have been thousands of texts on the phone that were not found. To retrieve the texts, Breer was seeking the phone of the woman’s ex-husband and the computer that Breer and the woman used in 2011.
Cantwell testified that if someone hooks up an iPhone, like Breer’s, to their computer, the computer can automatically back up the phone onto the computer, saving information like contact lists and text messages.
Breer said he had the computer in question set up to do just that and wanted access to it to get the text messages. Breer also said he and the woman’s ex-husband exchanged numerous text messages during the time of the alleged incidents and wanted the man’s phone to try to retrieve those texts.
Zonay directed Breer and his standby counsel to construct protective orders for the phone and computer that would allow Cantwell’s lab to retrieve the information.
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