Innocent man, 23, sues Arizona police for $1.5million after being arrested for MURDER and jailed for six days when Google’s GPS tracker wrongly placed him at the scene of the 2018 crime
- Jorge Molina was mistakenly arrested on murder charges in 2018
- He spent 6 days in prison after police used Google location data to identify him
- There were many inconsistencies with the Google data, which also showed multiple devices in multiple locations logged into his account
- Prosecutors declined to bring a case against him and he has filed a lawsuit
Last month, a 23-year-old Arizona man, Jorge Molina, sued the city of Avondale and several members of the police force after he was arrested on a murder charge in 2018 due to unreliable GPS data from Google.
In December 2018, Molina was arrested for the murder of another Avondale man, 29 year-old Jason Knight, who was shot nine times outside his apartment one night after work.
Molina spent six days in jail, but was released and prosecutors declined to bring a case against him due to the numerous problems with the data from Google.
For months, police had struggled to make progress on the investigation, with only fuzzy surveillance camera footage showing a white Honda with an unreadable license plate at the scene of the crime to go on.
Jorge Molina says that since the arrest and six days spent in jail, he has lost his job at Macy’s and been unable to find new work because he consistently fails background checks
Police then turned to Google to help them crack the case, issuing a warrant for geofence information on all the active accounts in the area at the time of the crime, according to a report from the Phoenix New Times.
The warrant produced four accounts, including Molina’s, which Google said had been logged into on a device in the area around the time.
Molina also drove a white Honda, which in combination with the Google data, was enough to convince police that he was the likely suspect.
The case against Molina fell apart quickly and prosecutors declined to bring charges, and last month, Molina filed a $1.5million lawsuit against the city of Avondale and members of its police department over their faulty reliance on Google’s data.
The lawsuit charges defamation, gross negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, which Molina claims he experience after the arrest.
On December 13, 2018, Molina (pictured above) was arrested and spent six days in jail before the case against him unraveled due to numerous inconsistencies in the data from Google
Police found surveillance footage of the crime, but because of the low quality they weren’t able to identify the license plate number of the car used in the murder
He was fired from his job at Macy’s, and has been unable to find new work both because the arrest causes him to fail background checks and because new stories about it prominently feature in Google searches for his name.
Molina’s lawsuit argues the data from Google should not have been used since Google allows multiple people to be simultaneously logged in to one account from multiple devices and locations.
WHAT IS A GEOFENCE WARRANT?
A geofence warrant is a type of warrant that police can issue to tech companies demanding location data about their users.
A geofence is a specific area that’s drawn with GPS coordinates.
Tech companies like Google can be compelled to turn over information to law enforcement about specific users who were active within the geofence area.
The exact requirements for when and how a geofence warrant can be issued vary from state to state.
The suit also argues that the data from Google couldn’t actually identify the owner of the device, nor the phone number or IP address associated with the device.
Molina’s lawyers also found multiple location discrepancies in the Google data from other days, which should have been disqualifying.
On one afternoon, Google’s records showed he was at his mother’s workplace in Scotsdale, while according to his debit card records, he was making a purchase at a Walmart 30 miles away.
‘In other words,’ the suit argues, ‘Google location data merely shows a possible physical location of a device that has been used to log into someone’s Google account — without revealing any identifying information of the person who is in possession of that device.’