Witness' phone goes missing in police property room - WSMV News 4

Witness' phone goes missing in police property room

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Natalie Amos (WSMV) Natalie Amos (WSMV)

A cell phone containing sensitive information key in the federal investigation of a former judge went missing in the Metro Nashville Police Department’s property room for at least four days.

Police said they eventually located the phone in a box of evidence for an unrelated case.

The iPhone belongs to Natalie Amos. She is the star witness in a public corruption case involving former Davidson County General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland.

The phone came into police custody during the investigation of an incident of alleged vandalism.

Amos is a defendant in the case, and told the News 4 I-Team she believes the charge is trumped up.

"I know it was a set-up," Amos told the I-Teams’s Nancy Amons.

Amos was arrested in late October, charged with vandalizing a model apartment at the Flats of Taylor Place on 5th Avenue North earlier that month.

An affidavit said pictures were taken off the wall and there was a cut in a box spring mattress. The apartment complex considered Amos a suspect, telling police they found Amos’ phone in the damaged unit. They turned the phone over to police, who then got a search warrant for the information inside.

"A box spring that had a tear in it, and they got a search warrant for the contents of my entire phone?  That's very bizarre,” Amos told the I-Team.

When the police finished processing the iPhone, the case detective left Amos a voicemail saying she could pick it up at the property room.

Amos went to the police property room Thursday night, only to hear that no one could locate her phone. She started her voice recorder.

"We've looked everywhere we can think to look," one employee at the property room said.

"We have gazillions of phones,” another employee told Amos. “We apologize for the inconvenience,” she said.

Here's why this particular missing iPhone is a big deal.

Amos is a key witness in a federal public corruption charge against Moreland, the former judge. That investigation began as a result of our I-Team investigation.

The I-Team documented that Moreland helped Amos get out of a traffic stop and helped her get some past traffic fines dismissed. The I-Team found that Amos and Moreland exchanged explicit text messages, even while Moreland was on the bench.

All those texts, as well as emails between Amos and the FBI, are in the misplaced iPhone, along with Amos’ notes about the ongoing investigations.

"I think there are a lot of people who have some serious concerns about what I know and who I've shared that with," Amos told the I-Team.

The iPhone was backed up and no evidence was lost, Amos said, but she wonders who may have had access to the contents of her phone, and wonders whether that access could affect both the federal investigation and her own welfare.

"I had journal entries in there and notes, so I definitely feel very exposed and have some additional safety concerns," Amos said.

Monday morning, Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said the missing iPhone had been located in a box of evidence in an unrelated case. Aaron said the phone never left the property room and blamed the misplaced phone on human error.

Amos appeared in court Friday on the vandalism charge. She said she's not guilty.

The idea that someone would be set up on a fake charge may seem far-fetched, but the FBI said it’s happened in this case before.

Moreland is under arrest right now, charged with trying to have someone plant drugs on Amos then have police stop her. The FBI wired an informant and recorded the offer, which was played in Moreland’s detention hearing. Moreland was also charged with conspiring to offer Amos a bribe of more than $5,000 to change her testimony.

"The stress has been overwhelming," Amos told the I-Team.

Moreland is set to go to trial in June. Friday, Amos' vandalism case was continued until March. Her first court appearance, ironically, was in the same courtroom – 4D – where former Judge Moreland used to preside.

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