A reality TV actress accused in an extortion case involving sex videos must give up her iPhone password to police, a Miami judge ruled on Wednesday.
In a case being closely watched in legal and tech circles, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Charles Johnson ruled that Hencha Voigt, and another man, must unlock their phones believed used in a plot to extort a social media star.
He ruled that unlocking their phones would not violate their constitutional right protecting against self-incrimination.
“For me, this is like turning over a key to a safety box,” Johnson said.
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Voit and co-defendant Wesley Victor have two weeks to decide whether to comply with the judge’s order. If they refuse, they could be jailed for contempt of court.
The decision was the latest in the ongoing struggles of the courts across the country in deciding how much access law-enforcement can have to smart phones, tablets and hard drives, many of them locked with sophisticated encryption.
Most notably, Apple last year resisted the federal government’s attempt to order the company to help unlock an iPhone owned by the Islamic State-inspired gunman who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California.
Voigt, 29, and Wesley Victor, 33, are accused of extortion, conspiracy to extort and the unlawful use of a phone.
In this case, Voigt and Victor are accused of threatening to release sex videos stolen from a phone belonging to Miami socialite known as YesJulz. Prosecutors say the pair last year demanded $18,000 from YesJulz, whose real name is Julieanne Goddard.
YesJulz is a social-media star, party promoter and online marketers who has been built a worldwide following hobnobbing with rappers and athletes. She’s been dubbed the “Queen of Snapchat.”
Voigt, of Hollywood, is a self-described “fitness model” who has more than 193,000 followers on Instagram. Last fall, she starred on E!’s “Miami WAGS,” a reality show that followed the wives and girlfriends of sports celebrities.
After Voigt and Victor were jailed, prosecutors secured a search warrant to examine four phones seized during the arrest. But investigators were unable to enter an iPhone belonging to Voigt, and a Blackberry belonging to Victor.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office asked the judge to force them them to unlock the phones. Prosecutors cited a December appeals court decision that allowed police in Sarasota to force a suspected voyeur to give up his iPhone passcode.
Voigt and Victor’s defense lawyers argued the state’s effort was nothing more than “fishing expedition”
But Judge Johnson on Wednesday ruled that he had no choice but to follow the decision from Sarasota.
“That’s the law in Florida at this point,” Johnson said.
The defense lawyers, Kertch Conze and Zeljka Bozanic, said they will explore a possible appeal.