News Column

Former sheriff's hard drive destroyed with hammer

July 1, 2014

By Brittany Wallman, Sun Sentinel



July 01--Broward Sheriff Scott Israel might never know what secrets existed on the computer of his predecessor and political enemy, Al Lamberti.

Broward sheriff's employees smashed the hard drive to smithereens with a hammer right before Israel took office, an Internal Affairs investigation found.

State law requires that public records be retained. The investigation turned up no evidence that the former sheriff had ordered destruction of public records, or that any laws were broken.

Lamberti's then-executive officer, Sgt. Don Prichard, said he was tasked with copying the hard drive's contents onto disks and then wiping the drive clean using software. However, BSO employees resorted to brute force, bashing the drive with a hammer, even leaving some blood on it, an Internal Affairs report says.

Those involved told BSO investigators that they didn't know what was on the hard drive and did not view its contents. They said hard drive-wiping software was unreliable, or that it couldn't be used with Lamberti's hard drive model, the report says.

BSO website developer Anthony Petruzzi told investigators that he "was not instructed to destroy the drive in that manner, but he advised that he wanted to make sure he completed the task."

So senior technical analyst Omar Battista took on the help-desk task with a hammer, cutting his hand.

Lamberti couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday, despite a text message and call for comment.

Israel, a Democrat who unseated Republican Lamberti in 2012, has been unable to find all the disks that Prichard said contain the hard drive's contents. Prichard said he thought there were four disks.

Patrick Giordano of BSO's technical support unit backed up Prichard's claim that the hard drive was at least partly copied, saying that he was asked to copy the emails and contacts and produced two CDs of data.

But when Prichard escorted investigators to the archive room to look for a "Lamberti" box, it wasn't there. Only one CD containing Lamberti emails was found, and Giordano said the handwriting on it was not his, the report says.

Further, Giordano said he didn't copy anything from Lamberti's desktop computer.

"The investigation revealed that no copies were obtained from former Sheriff Lamberti's computer hard drive," the report concluded.

The case was placed on "pending inactive" status, "until which time evidence of a crime exists."

bwallman@tribune.com or 954-356-4541

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(c)2014 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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Source: South Florida Sun Sentinel (FL)


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