Audio Evidence Suggests Tony Cercy Was Awake on the Night of Alleged Assault
THERMOPOLIS — Two 1.5-second-long audio recordings four seconds apart on an iPhone may undermine Casper businessman Tony Cercy’s claim that he was asleep during the time a woman alleged he sexually assaulted her last year, according to a witness in the Cercy trial at the Hot Springs County Court House.
“It sounds like birds,” Paul Searcey told the 11-woman three-man jury on the fifth day of Cercy’s third-degree sexual assault trial.
This trial comes nine months after a previous trial in Natrona County District Court in which a jury found Cercy not guilty of first-degree (rape) and second-degree sexual assault of a then 20-year-old woman at his former house at Alcova Lake on June 25, 2017.
The jury deadlocked on one count of third-degree sexual assault, District Court Judge Daniel Forgey declared a mistrial, the woman asked and District Attorney Mike Blonigen agreed to refile the charge, and Forgey moved the trial to Hot Springs County.
The new trial meant the prosecution would need to present the entire case again.
However, the evidence and testimony of Searcey was new.
Searcey is the tech director at Highland Park Community Church, has been a choir teacher, has an educational background in education technology, and manages a recording studio, he said during questioning by Blonigen.
During his time teaching at Casper College, he became interested in how audio is digitized and how people perceive it, he said.
He has testified in other Wyoming courts about how he analyzes digital recording, he said.
In the first trial, the prosecution presented evidence that two photos — both black — were taken on Cercy’s iPhone about 3:16 a.m. June 25, 2017, when Cercy said he was asleep. However, that time also was about when the alleged victim said Cercy drove her from his house to near a trailer at the Alcova Trailer Park to find some friends.
The defense admitted in the first trial there were photos, but said because they just showed black they weren’t of any use as evidence.
Since then, the prosecution submitted the digital evidence to Searcey for analysis, Blonigen said.
Searcey said an iPhone is constantly taking video, but throws it away when someone irecords video or takes a picture. The picture is preceded by 0.75 seconds of audio and followed by 0.75 seconds of audio for a total of 1.5 seconds of audio, he said.
He uses advanced audio forensic equipment, the kind used in professional music studios, that can put the audio on a spectrograph so people can, in effect, see the sound, he said.
The audio taken at 3:46:08 a.m. and 3:46:12 a.m. June 25, 2017, included two 1.5 seconds of audio with a four-second gap, he said.
Searcey played the two audio samples for the court on the spectrograph. “There’s something there, but it’s very difficult to get because of all the background noise.”
Both had a lot of background noise, such as possible blowing air picked up by the microphone, he said. Both had noises louder than the background noise at the beginning and end of each recording, with several spikes of sound in the middle.
Searcey demonstrated how he amplified the sound, removed the low-end or bass sound, leaving the sounds that were louder than the background noise. Changing the volume does not change the content, he added.
He removed the background noise at the beginning and end of the samples and found “some very interesting stuff in the middle.”
Blonigen asked Searcey if he could identify the sounds, to which he responded, “I know what they sound like to me.”
(Someone who was sitting in the gallery where Cercy’s friends and family were sitting said, “it’s a meadowlark.”)
Searcey said he increased the frequency to 20,000 Hertz, a frequency that “would drive a dog nuts.”
The microphone on the iPhone, he added, had a direct line of sight to what was making the noise. Anything in the way, such as cloth, would have dulled the sound, he said.
“It sounds like birds, but more than one type; two or three different types of birds,” Searcey said.
Defense attorney Pamela Mackey objected to the comment about the number of birds. Forgey sustained the objection, saying Searcey’s comment about the number of birds was a guess.
During her cross-examination, Mackey asked if the sounds at the beginning and end of both recordings could have been conversations or a sound from a vehicle.
Searcey responded that they would have had to have been louder than the background noise for him to analyze, and he was not able to identify what they were.
The prosecution will present its final witness Monday morning and rest its case. The defense then will begin calling its witnesses. The trial is scheduled to end Wednesday.