A state trooper testified Monday he was mistaken when he said under oath last year that he found a phone that belonged to Joseph Beer on the ground at the crash scene where four teenagers died.
The change in testimony is one the defense is hoping will bolster its attempt to exclude text messages Beer previously sent as evidence the jury hears in his aggravated vehicular homicide trial.
Trooper Eduardo Arias testified Monday that he instead found the phone on the seat of the car, which the defense hopes will boost their contention that the phone was illegally seized from Beer.
Beer, 19, faces multiple felony charges following the October 2012 crash on the Southern State Parkway that killed four of his friends after he lost control of a car he was driving without a license.
Prosecutors have alleged he was speeding and high on marijuana at the time. The defense claims evidence will show that Beer, then 17, wasn't impaired by the drug although he had smoked it before driving.
Authorities want to use text messages from Beer's phone in the trial, which they've said include messages from the day before the crash that said things like "I'm always high," "I love smoking weed," and "I smoke all day every day."
Arias told Beer's lawyer, Todd Greenberg, during a cross-exam Monday: "I'm telling you that I made a mistake."
The admission came after Nassau County Judge David Sullivan reopened a hearing into the admissibility of the phone as evidence.
Greenberg said later that prosecutors brought the inconsistency to his attention while preparing for trial.
A spokesman for the district attorney's office declined to comment on Monday's hearing, which happened outside the jury's presence after other testimony in the case.
"The significance is . . . if it's an illegal search, then these text messages that the district attorney is relying on, shouldn't be in evidence," Greenberg said later.
"The district attorney . . . is depending on those text messages to show criminal intent of recklessness so it's extremely important and we fought to keep it out before the trial. Now, with this new evidence, we're going to try to keep it out also," he said.