In their latest vendetta against alleged injustice, supposed members of the hacktivist group Anonymous have pledged to expose corruption in the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department. If these members do indeed belong to the group, it would seem that Anonymous hopes to help Steven Avery, the subject of Netflix's docuseries Making a Murderer. Along with his nephew, Brendan Dassey, Avery was tried and convicted of the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach.
Through a new Twitter account created by the group, @OPAVERYDASSEY, Anonymous has taunted two police officers who have been accused of planting evidence in the case. Both have denied the accusations. Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department’s Sgt. Andrew Colborn and Lt. James Lenk found evidence on Avery's property that helped lead to his conviction — evidence that had not been found in prior searches.
The tweets claim that Anonymous may have access to emails and phone records that allegedly point to the two officers collaborating in November 2005, during the murder investigation. On Sunday, the group gave the sheriff's department 48 hours to release the records. Bustle has reached out to the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department for comment.
According to Associated Press and local news reports on Avery's trials and appeals, Colborn and Lenk reportedly have a longer connection to Avery than just the Halbach murder investigation. As the Netflix documentary explains, Avery spent 18 years in prison for an earlier conviction before he was exonerated and released in 2003. Colborn and fellow officer Lt. Lenk were suspected of discovering evidence which suggested Avery's innocence in the Beerntsen case in the 1990s.
According to the documentary, a person identifying themselves as a detective called the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department to inform them that they had a suspect in custody named Gregory Allen, who claimed to have committed a sexual assault in Manitowoc County and that "someone else was in jail for it." According to the documentary, Sergeant Andrew Colborn, who took the call, allegedly informed his superior officer, Lieutenant James Lenk. No report was filed at that time. The Minnesota-based Gazette Review reports:
This phone call remained officially unreported until September 12, 2003. The day after Avery is released for his unjust conviction, Andrew Colborn contacted his superior officer, James Lenk. Lenk told Colborn to write a report, which was then taken by the sheriff and placed in a safe.
This report is uncovered only during the litigation of Avery’s civil suit against Manitowoc County, more than two years later. On October 11, James Lenk is deposed, followed two days later by Andrew Colborn, with questions about the report. While Lenk’s answers are largely evasive and unclear, it is established he instructed Colborn to make a report in 2003. What isn’t established is whether at any point earlier Lenk knew of the call.
As a result, they were named in a $36 million civil lawsuit for damages against Manitowoc County filed in 2004 by Avery. He contended that alleged inaction by officers caused him to spend more time in prison. It was just over a year later that Halbach vanished, and her murder investigation turned towards Avery. His civil suit was settled out of court.
Anonymous' new Twitter handle uses both Avery and Dassey's names. Dassey was 16 at the time of Halbach's murder, and he gave a full confession. But Dassey's lawyer claimed the police used techniques that were inappropriate, given his age and reportedly limited intellectual capacity. Dassey's legal team has petitioned for a review of his case by a federal judge. Briefs have been filed, but there is no timeframe for review.
During Avery's trial, his legal team questioned Lenk and Colborn's roles in the case, and claimed that the officers planted evidence against Avery as retaliation for his lawsuit. The Post-Crescent reported that Avery's blood had been found in Halbach's car, but an opened vial of his blood from 1996 was found in a box in the courthouse across the street from the police station.
According to the Post-Crescent summary of the trial, Avery's lawyers asked the judge to delay the case to allow for further testing of the blood, to see if it had been planted. The request was denied. Meanwhile, the $36 million lawsuit was settled for $400,000. Avery needed the money to pay for private defense lawyers in the Halbach case.
Like his nephew, Avery applied for an appeal, but his murder conviction was upheld in 2011. He is currently serving a life sentence in prison, with no hope of parole.
Image: Netflix (1)