Private Investigator Heather Cohen and research specialist Tracey Dianne Ellis are dedicated to providing the public with vital information that may otherwise be inaccessible. In this blog, we aim to share case-specific details and shed light on local and national issues within the realm of government and the criminal justice system.
Justice Warrior Investigations and its affiliates do not warrant the accuracy of witness statements found on this website. However, we do affirm that these statements have not been modified, and we have not exerted influence over the information provided. It is important to note that we are not attorneys, and therefore, nothing contained on this website should be construed as legal advise.
What You Should Know About Private Investigating
1. You should never “investigate” your own case. You are too close. Further, there is a fine line between “investigating” and “stalking.” When you do it, it’s stalking. When you hire someone to do it, it’s “investigating” (as long as there isn’t an order in place prohibiting you from hiring a PI).
2. It’s always best to have your attorney act as the client to the PI. That way, all communications and activity is protected under the “attorney-client privilege.” Otherwise, if the opposing counsel subpoenas the PIs files, they have to surrender them. Having an attorney as the “middle man” prevents this from happening.
3. GPS trackers are illegal in most states! The only exception to this is if you are tracking a minor child who is driving your vehicle or if you are tracking your own vehicle. Generally speaking, you cannot track anyone over the age of 18 (even if your name is on the vehicle).
4. Always research the PI company. Check to be sure that they are licensed and that they always use licensed PIs. You should check reviews, too. Remember that, while you may never need them to testify, if, by chance, they are needed in court, if they are not properly licensed, their testimonies can be thrown out altogether. Credentials are important and that’s for good reason.
5. Public databases are not always accurate. Platforms like Truthfinder and Skope (to name a few) can be helpful in some ways but, often, have inaccurate information. In most cases, they are not so good at separating info pertaining to individuals with the same name. Thus, while some of the info you receive may be relevant to the person you’re “investigating,” other info will likely be about other individuals with the same name. Be careful, as you don’t want to accuse someone of having a criminal history that does not belong to them.
6. When you hire a PI, you are paying for their time and expertise, not the results. For example, if you’re hoping to catch your spouse cheating but he is not cheating, the PI cannot catch him doing something he (or she) isn’t doing. In most cases, the client would be relieved to learn that their spouse really is working late. But, some people, feel that this means the investigation was unsuccessful and expected a refund.
7. A PI cannot issue a warrant, subpoena or arrest anyone. As a PI, our job is to gather info to help you with your case. However, from that point on, it is in the hands of your attorney and/or law enforcement and the courts to decide what to do with that information. Trust me when I say that this can be extremely frustrating for a PI. However, as invested as we may be, the outcome is out of our control.
8. Research the laws about consent in your state prior to recording any conversation. Some states are “one party consent,” which means that, as long as you are a party to the conversation, you can legally record it. While other states require two (or both) separate persons, who are parties of the conversation, to consent. It is always illegal to record a conversation that you are not a party of, unless you have consent from one (or both… depending on the law) of parties conversing. If you are not acting under the confines of the law you can be charged with Invasion of Privacy and/or Wiretapping.
Were my Victim’s Rights Violated? Yes or No?
For over a year and a half, I was harassed online by my former intern and persons of interest in a murder that I am investigating. They have tried just about everything they could to discredit me, take away my livelihood, and make me “shut” my mouth. Many times, I turned to law enforcement for help and was rejected. Finally, I took matters into my own hands and went before the grand jury with my evidence. The district attorney went over the Stalking Statute multiple times to be sure that they understood the elements that needed to be met in order for the offense to rise to the point of being a criminal matter. A jury of twelve of my peers felt that it did.
After being arrested, both defendants’ mug shots were wiped clean from mobile patrol within an hour. Further, they were released without bond conditions and both the judge, Lee Moore, and district attorney, Danny Goodman, recused themselves.
Prior to the special prosecutor being appointed, the district attorney released the evidence I used to get them indicted to their attorney. Within one day of receipt, Darrell had called and left multiple voice messages on one of my witnesses cell phone. In a flustered voice he told him that he knew he wasn’t answering the phone because of what he did, which was provide me with a recorded conversation between them in which Mr. Sells had admitted that he hired my former intern, Chastity Brandon, to (harass) “get even” with me. At one point he admits that he has paid her thousands of dollars but that he was about to “cut her off.”
Naturally, I was upset to learn that Mr. Sells was going after a witness so I made it a point to attend the first hearing to attempt to get bond conditions set. However, all that happened at that hearing was that everyone recused themselves. I was not allowed in the court room and bond conditions were not set. While sitting in the victim’s room, Darrell’s son, Darren, started a verbal confrontation in the courthouse with my partner/bodyguard. We were escorted out and he followed. He pulled up to my car, while I was standing outside with my roommate (at the time) and yelled, “Heather… see ya soon,” then flipping me off as he drove away.
When Special Prosecutor, Daniel Stephenson, was assigned, he assured me that he would file a violation on the defendants if this behavior continued and that he had “put them on notice.”
I did not attend the second hearing but I felt much better when ADA Stephenson told me that they would have bond conditions filed the following week. This, however, did not happen and, months later, at the third hearing, they literally made the same exact agreement (to file an AO for bond conditions) that I had been told was made at the second hearing. You read that right. Nearly four months in and there still was nothing in place protecting me from them.
I did not attend the second hearing but, at the third hearing, Darrell Sells turned around and stared me down, nodding his head upward like a gangster, and continued to glare at me (from the podium in front of the judge) for most of the hearing. This happened in front of investigator Chris Gorman, General Goodman, Chancellor Childress, and everyone in the gallery as well as the special prosecutor. As I departed the courtroom, with ADA Stephenson by my side, the whole family lined up and stared me down and Stephenson grabbed my arm and stood in front of me.
Finally, the bond conditions were on file after months of begging for the court to protect me. However, shortly after, Sells “liked” my FB post. I reported it to ADA Stephenson and was told that he would file a violation on them if he could prove it was him, which should not have been hard to do. Then, RADIO SILENCE.
After weeks of sending emails and calling the victim’s advocate for answers, who always replied by letting me know that Stephenson wasn’t answering her either, I finally got very upset and emailed him to let him know how I was feeling. He responded with an ugly email saying that I had “misconstrued” what he’d said (although when I asked what I had “misconstrued” he did not reply) and that I was not to contact him again.
We were set for trial on February 1, 2022. But, only a few days prior, I received an email from ADA Stephenson letting me know that he had filed a Noelle Prosequi.