By Zoe Singer ‘23
It has been a successful year for the Heschel Mock Trial Team. This year, the students worked on a criminal case – civil and criminal cases switch out each year – concerning fictional defendant Phoenix Jones, who has allegedly bought and sold illegal items on the dark web using a fake identity.
Phoenix Jones, played by junior Liam Katz, is a 20-year-old college student struggling to remain economically afloat. In order to earn money, Jones begins selling his personal items on eBay and in local pawn shops.
Following an investigation conducted by Officer Morgan Thornberry (sophomore Talia Namdar-Cohen), the prosecution concluded that after Jones ran out of items to sell, he resorted to buying stolen goods on the dark web using Bytecoin, a cryptocurrency that offers buyers more anonymity than credit cards. Thornberry suspects that Jones opened a virtual mailing address for receiving packages at Ted-Rex Dinko’s, a mailbox for packages for people who live in the area. The mailing address is under the alias “Emery Rose, a name suspiciously similar to that of Jones’ recently deceased uncle Emerald Rose. The prosecution also alleges that Phoenix Jones used the ride-hailing service Rover to pick up packages from Ted-Rex Dinko’s and deliver them to Big Tom’s Reseller, a pawn shop in Chemung. It is important to note that while Rover is a rideshare service similar to Uber, it conducts fewer background checks.
Aside from Thornberry, the prosecution called two other witnesses to the stand to prove Jones’ guilt. Cameron Clark (freshman Mira Cohen), played the current clerk at Big Tom’s Reseller. In a facial recognition report executed by Thornberry, she claimed that a man named Emory Rose who entered the pawnshop resembled Phoenix Jones. Jules Thompson (freshman Charlie Lebwohl), is an expert in the use of cryptocurrency in criminality. He testified that, based on his research, the alleged crime is definitely possible, and that the level of anonymity Bytecoin provides could have enabled Jones to get away with this crime.
The defense argued that Jones is completely innocent. While the facial recognition report indicated a 95% probability that the person in the photo who claimed to be Emery Rose is Phoenix Jones, someone named Clark Taylor had a 96% probability of being the person in the picture. Taylor was never investigated by Thornberry and could very well be the actual culprit in the case. The defense further highlighted that when examining the facial recognition report, Thornberry pressed Cameron Clark to declare that Emery Jones was actually Phoenix Jones.
Kaden Keller (freshman Zoe Singer) is a professor at the college from which Jones dropped out. She explains that Bytecoin does not offer as much anonymity as some people believe and that the investigators in this case are being sloppy. She testifies that if the investigators worked a bit harder, they would be more successful at finding the real perpetrator.
Blair Overland (freshman Rose Buchdahl) is the Rover driver who delivers the packages from Ted-Rex Dinko’s to Big Tom’s Reseller. Overland testifies that when she dropped off a package at Big Tom’s Reseller, she announced that she had a package for Emery Rose and Big Tom said, “It’s about time. See, PJ, I told you there was nothing to worry about.” Overland then sees a picture of Phoenix Jones, testifies that the PJ she saw in the store and Phoenix Jones are not the same person, and concludes that Jones is not the Emery for whom she had the delivery.
Both the prosecution and defense make very persuasive arguments. Heschel’s defense team participated in Round One and prevailed against Cathedral. Heschel’s prosecution team participated in Round Two and prevailed against Spence. Because both teams scored so highly, the entire Mock Trial Team was granted a “bye,” which permitted them to skip Round Three and advance directly to Round Four, an overall triumph for the team. Due to the coronavirus, the mock trial tournament was canceled, but Heschel’s team emerged undefeated!