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February 11, 2014

Lawyers in slaying seek to bar cab's GPS data

IPSWICH — As Jun Lin allegedly drove north toward Ipswich and then south, toward casinos in Connecticut, the credit card machine in the back of his cab was leaving what investigators called “electronic breadcrumbs” — GPS data that was being sent back to the company that had installed the device.

Investigators and a grand jury, by subpoenaing the company, later followed that trail to Lin and, ultimately, to his passengers, Sifa Lee and Cheng Sun. All three are charged in the September 2011 attempted robbery and murder of Shui Keung “Tony” Woo, 62, of Quincy, inside the Majestic Dragon restaurant on Route 1 in Ipswich.

But yesterday, attorneys for two of the men argued that the government had no right to the GPS data without first obtaining a search warrant.

“I believe that the defendant has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a taxicab,” said Lawrence McGuire, one of Lee’s attorneys, yesterday.

“Nothing tells him that his comings and goings in that cab are being monitored by a private company,” McGuire said. The machine takes credit card information and sometimes displays an ad. “None of that would alert you to the fact that the same machine would track you from place to place,” he argued.

“I don’t even think most people would think about it,” McGuire said. “Certainly, as of the date Mr. Lee took this cab, he was certainly not aware, and he was certainly not aware that the company would give those records over to the government. I believe Mr. Lee had a reasonable expectation of privacy that no one was tracking his moves.”

And because of that, prosecutors should have been required to show probable cause for a warrant to collect that data, McGuire and Lin’s attorney, Frank Santisi argue.

Because prosecutors didn’t, they should be barred from using any evidence that stemmed from the use of that data when the case goes to trial next month, they said.

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