The claim: Post cites the proven “2000 mule” theory because Idaho suspects he was caught with the help of cellphone data
A Facebook post Jan. 5 (direct link, archive link) shows a screenshot of a tweet written by John Rich, who is a member of country music duo Big & Rich.
“They caught the Idaho killer using cell phone ping data, the exact same method used to track #2000Mules,” the tweet reads. “One has been lauded as ‘a brilliant piece of editorial’, while the other has been vilified as ‘unreliable’. See how this works? We live in a mirrored fun house where every photo is flexed.”
The post was shared more than 800 times in 12 days Original tweet It has been retweeted more than 22,000 times.
Many commentators seem to agree with the post that “2000 Mules,” which makes unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud using mobile data, was proven true because police used mobile data while investigating the murders of four college students. Idaho stabbed.
“exactly!” One comment reads.
“TRUE!” post reads.
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Our assessment: context is missing
The claim implied here is wrong. Police used location data specifically taken from Kohberger’s cellphone and combined that with other evidence, including DNA, to justify his arrest. “2000 Mules” used extensive, anonymized mobile phone geolocation data, which, experts say, is not accurate enough to prove that someone took a specific action such as dropping a ballot into a drop box.
Allegations of “2000 Mules” voter fraud have not been proven by cell data
“2000 Mules,” released in May by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, alleges that “mules,” or ballot users, have been paid to illegally collect and drop ballots in swing states crucial to tilting the results of the 2020 election against former President Donald Trump. .
The film is based on research from True the Vote, a Texas-based nonprofit organization that, according to the Associated Press, said it found 2,000 “mule” by purchasing $2 million of anonymized mobile phone geolocation data – the “votes” that Tracks person location based on app activity.
Fact check:The post incorrectly links the military vote count in Wisconsin to election fraud
Several independent fact-checking outlets, including the AP, PolitiFact, and Reuters, have debunked the film’s assertions, all of which indicate that mobile phone location data is not accurate enough to confirm someone dropped a ballot into a drop box.
“The data is not good enough to tell you for sure that someone has physically gone to the polls,” said Aaron Striegel, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Notre Dame.
In general, mobile location data can only reliably track a specific cell phone to an area the size of a city block, Andrew Appel, a professor of computer science at Princeton University, told USA TODAY.
A mixture of evidence, including DNA, is used to arrest the suspect in Idaho
Brian Kohberger, 28, was arrested in late December in connection with the deaths of four University of Idaho students, who were found stabbed to death on November 13, 2022, in a rented home in Moscow, Idaho.
Police have not yet determined what may have motivated the killings, but court documents released in early January provided more details about the investigation. To make the case for Kohberger’s arrest, police relied on a range of evidence, including DNA left on a large knife sheath found at the scene, trash collected from his parents’ Pennsylvania home, surveillance video, cellphone records, and license plate readers who They tracked down his car on a cross-country trip.
Police determined that Kohberger’s phone had been near the students’ rented home at least 12 times in the six months leading up to the attack, and “all but one of these occasions occurred in the late evening and early morning hours,” according to court documents. .
Authorities also used mobile phone location data to track the suspect’s location and noted that his mobile phone was either switched off or put on airplane mode for a period that overlapped with the attacks.
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Whereas “2000 Mules” relied exclusively on cell phone data to prove its case, the case against Kohberger does not rely solely on cell phone location data — nor should it do so, Appel explained.
“They use it to find out some things about the suspect, but when they have to prove something in court, it’s a very weak case if they just rely on that,” he said.
Striegel agreed, and noted that police do not need an exact location to show that Kohberger was in the area at certain times.
“They were looking to see if he (Kohberger) was around the house,” he said. “They don’t need to know that he was sitting in a car across the street or that he was on the sidewalk.”
Police found DNA from a single male source left on a knife sheath button found near one of the victims. Subsequently, the police took DNA from the garbage at Kohburger’s parents’ house in Pennsylvania, and were able to say with a high degree of probability that it belonged to the biological father of the person whose DNA was on the knife sheath.
Kohberger remains in jail without the possibility of bail as his case continues. He is expected to return to court in June for a preliminary hearing.
USA TODAY has reached out to Rich and the social media user who shared the post for comment.
PolitiFact has also debunked this claim.
Our sources for fact-checking:
- Andrew Abel, Jan. 18, USA TODAY phone interview
- Aaron Striegel, Jan. 19, USA TODAY phone interview
- IMDb accessed Jan 17, 2000 Mules
- Associated Press, May 3, 2022, Fact Spot: Holes in 2K Balloting ‘Mules’ Claim
- PolitiFact, May 4, 2022 The ‘2000 Mule’ trailer’s false assumption about voting by mail in the 2020 election
- Reuters, May 27, 2022, Fact Check – Does the 2000 Mules movie provide evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 US presidential election?
- USA TODAY, DECEMBER 30, 2022, IDAHO PARK, PEN. STATE SUSPENDER IN MURDER OF COLLAGE STUDENTS ARRESTED; Mom powers on impulse
- New York Times, Jan. 5, Read the affidavit
- USA TODAY, JANUARY 6, DNA on knife scabbard links Suspect in mysterious Idaho student killings roommate saw masked man, police say in new arrest documents
- USA TODAY, Jan. 12, “Perfect case study”: How advances in technology allowed Idaho police to uncover mysterious student killings
- USA TODAY, Jan. 5 How did investigators use DNA profiling to identify a suspect in the Idaho student killings?
- USA TODAY, Jan. 12, Stabbing Idaho College Suspect Still Imprisoned Without Bail, Waives Right to Speedy Trial
- PolitiFact, Jan. 12, No, Cellphone Data Used to Arrest Idaho Suspected Killer Doesn’t Give ‘2000 Mule’ Credibility
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