Judge rules evidence in case against man charged in firefighter’s death inadmissible

Cellphone evidence tossed in case of man charged with Worcester arson fire

WORCESTER, Mass. — A Worcester superior court judge has ruled the cellphone of a man charged in the death of Worcester Firefighter Christopher Roy inadmissible as evidence.

On Monday, Judge David Ricciardone said police seized Momoh Kamara’s cellphone before they retained a warrant to secure the phone as evidence. The key step of retaining a warrant prior to seizing and searching the suspect’s phone would’ve prevented the evidence from being tossed out.

According to Judge Ricciardone, police only had a warrant to search Kamara’s West Boylston home the day they seized his phone while Kamara was being questioned by a grand jury, nine days after the fire.

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At that point, a Worcester Police sergeant ordered the cellphone be confiscated at the courthouse.

Kamara is charged with setting the fire that killed Roy on Dec. 9, 2018, where surveillance video indicated he had been at the home prior to it catching fire.

While police did apply for a warrant for the phone, it was after they seized it, obtaining it on Dec. 21. Judge Ricciardone said police must have probable cause to seize someone’s property, but they never explained why they waited to secure the warrant. Adding it may have been a case of oversight, Ricciardone maintained that law enforcement had no authority to seize that phone.

“There was no explanation provided as to why the police did not seek the warrant for the defendant’s phone," said Ricciardone. “This may have been a simple oversight on their part. If it was, the police sought to remedy the situation by simply seizing the phone. This is not the same as addressing a true exigency.”

Legal Expert Brad Bailey tells Boston 25 News that, while the judge’s decision seems sound, it doesn’t appear to be much of a blow to the case itself.

“By Dec. 19, the defendant had been a suspect, if not the only suspect, in the arson case for at least three days,” said Ricciardone. “The information derived from all sources led to the identification of the defendant by Dec. 16.”

Investigators used surveillance video and Uber records to help place Kamara at the scene of the fatal fire.