Karen Read trial: Defense grills Brian Higgins on the fate of his cellphone, SIM card (2024)


“You’ve destroyed that phone, haven’t you?”

Karen Read trial: Defense grills Brian Higgins on the fate of his cellphone, SIM card (1)

By Abby Patkin

On the stand Friday:

  • Brian Higgins, Sandwich, MA

4:45 p.m. update: Defense grills Brian Higgins on the fate of his cellphone, SIM card

Brian Higgins’s testimony came to an explosive finish Friday as defense attorney Alan Jackson asked the witness whether he removed the SIM card from his cellphone, drove to a military base, and trashed the device and SIM card in separate dumpsters amid the investigation into John O’Keefe’s death.

“That is not correct,” Higgins said in response to Jackson’s alleged version of events.

Judge Beverly Cannone then ended Friday’s session before another question was asked.

Higgins is one of three men Karen Read’s lawyers have named in their theory that someone other than Read is responsible for O’Keefe’s death. He testified earlier on Friday about exchanging flirty texts — and a kiss — with Read while she was dating O’Keefe.


During cross-examination, Jackson grilled Higgins on his whereabouts and phone records in the hours and days after O’Keefe died. Higgins confirmed that on Jan. 30, 2022, he sought advice about phone data extraction from his best friend, a fellow ATF agent who works in the FBI’s regional computer forensics lab.

“I asked him how I could pull text strings off my cellular telephone for the purpose of providing them to law enforcement,” Higgins testified, later acknowledging that he could have also turned the entire device over to police.

He confirmed that he visited the forensics lab and used a “kiosk” in an unrestricted area to pull information from his phone. Jackson pressed Higgins on whether he was aware that federal regulations bar the use of one’s public office for private gain. Higgins said he wasn’t aware. He also testified that he no longer has the same phone he did in 2022.

“You’ve destroyed that phone, haven’t you?” Jackson asked.

“No, I threw the phone away,” Higgins said.

“Well, that’s destroying the phone, isn’t it?” Jackson countered.

“I had every right to do that,” Higgins maintained.

He said to the best of his recollection, “When I threw it away, if I was going to take [the SIM card] out, I would break it or cut it. But I did not wipe the phone. I did not take anything else off it. But if I was going to throw the phone away, that’s what I would’ve done.”

Karen Read trial: Defense grills Brian Higgins on the fate of his cellphone, SIM card (2)

Higgins confirmed that he received a notice on Sept. 30, 2022, preventing him from altering or destroying anything on his cellphone. Jackson noted that Higgins previously testified at another hearing that he changed phone carriers and phone numbers on the 29th, one day prior to receiving the protective order.

As for his SIM card, Higgins again testified that it’s possible the card was either cut or broken if he removed it from his phone. “And that would have been after the date the [protective] order was already denied,” he added.

What about Brian Higgins’s calls with Brian Albert, Kenneth Berkowitz?

Jackson also grilled Higgins on his phone conversations with Brian Albert and then-Canton Police Chief Kenneth Berkowitz. Pointing to Higgins’s call history from Jan. 29, 2022, he asked: “Those phone records established that you and Brian Albert actually exchanged not one but two phone calls at 2:22 a.m. that morning, at a time when you claimed you were in bed asleep, correct?”


“I have no recollection of any phone calls,” Higgins replied.

Jackson pointed to phone records indicating Higgins missed a call from Albert and called his friend back a short time later. Both Higgins and Albert have testified that the calls were inadvertent, or “butt dials.”

“So the fact is, you were speaking to Brian Albert in the middle of the night, approximately three hours before Mr. O’Keefe’s body was found in his yard, correct?” Jackson asked.

“No, that’s not correct,” Higgins replied.

“And that was five minutes before 2:27 a.m., when there was a Google search for ‘how long to die in the cold,’ correct?” Jackson continued. Cannone sustained an objection from prosecutors, blocking Higgins from answering.

“Mr. Higgins, what was so important that you and Brian Albert needed to discuss something at 2:22 in the morning?” Jackson asked.

“There was no discussion,” Higgins maintained. “I never talked to Brian Albert.”

Jackson also asked Higgins about his conversations with Berkowitz and Albert after Berkowitz found pieces of broken taillight outside Albert’s home at 34 Fairview Road a few days after O’Keefe died. Jackson specifically pointed to a statement Higgins made in June 2023 before a federal grand jury: “Listen, I didn’t do anything wrong in this.”

“I felt they were being accusatory, and I was trying to explain what was going on” with the calls, Higgins explained Friday.


“That information about the taillight that was found was provided by each person,” he added. “I didn’t provide any information to anybody.”

But Jackson continued his third degree: “You said, ‘Look, I didn’t do anything wrong in this,’ because it looks like you and Ken Berkowitz were colluding to provide information to Brian Albert, correct?”

“Absolutely not correct,” Higgins replied. “That’s wrong.”

Karen Read trial: Defense grills Brian Higgins on the fate of his cellphone, SIM card (3)

Did Brian Higgins overlap with Karen Read’s SUV at the police station?

Much of Jackson’s cross-examination focused on Higgins’s whereabouts in the Canton Police Department on Jan. 29, 2022. He noted that Higgins — who had a satellite office at the police station — accessed the station’s sally port about 90 minutes before Read’s SUV was brought in. Higgins denied seeing evidence in the garage area.

“All I would do is use that as a cut-through,” he said of the sally port. “I did not see anything.”

“You’re aware that the video surveillance feed from the sally port garage at or around 5:36 — the precise time when the car was delivered — is just missing, right?” Jackson asked. Cannone sustained an objection from prosecutors.

Friday’s testimony ended with Higgins still on the stand. Read’s trial will only be in session on Tuesday next week, with a full day of witness testimony on the docket.

1:15 p.m. update: Brian Higgins testifies about flirty texts, kiss with Karen Read

Jurors in the Karen Read murder trial are expected to hear from a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agent accused of having a “romantic entanglement” with Read during her relationship with John O’Keefe.


According to prosecutors, Read and Brian Higgins kissed and exchanged romantic text messages in the weeks before O’Keefe’s death. Witnesses have placed Higgins at the Waterfall Bar & Grille in Canton with the couple and others the night before O’Keefe died. Higgins also attended a subsequent house party at 34 Fairview Road, owned at the time by his friend Brian Albert.

O’Keefe was found cold and unresponsive outside Albert’s house early on Jan. 29, 2022, and prosecutors say Read is to blame. The 44-year-old Mansfield woman is accused of drunkenly — and intentionally — backing her SUV into O’Keefe while dropping him off at the afterparty.

More on Karen Read:
  • ‘Hos long to die in cold’: Jen McCabe grilled on hotly debated Google search
  • ‘You’re going to get a DUI,’ Kerry Roberts says she warned Karen Read before search
  • Karen Read trial: Brian Albert grilled about cellphone, calls with friend Brian Higgins

However, Read’s lawyers have alleged a widespread conspiracy among witnesses and law enforcement, arguing that others are responsible for killing O’Keefe. They’ve suggested O’Keefe entered 34 Fairview Road and was beaten, possibly attacked by the Alberts’ pet dog, and dumped outside in the snow.

Defense attorney David Yannetti previously pointed to three people who were at the house that night: Brian Albert, his nephew Colin Albert, and Higgins. None of the three men have been charged with any crimes in connection with O’Keefe’s death, and prosecutors and lawyers for Higgins and Brian Albert have repeatedly pushed back on the defense team’s claims.

“Brian Higgins has not participated in any kind of a coverup or conspiracy to cover up the criminal activity of others,” Higgins’s attorney, William Connolly, said during a March hearing. “Participating in a coverup is contrary to who he is as a human being and a professional.”


Yannetti alleged during the same hearing that after receiving a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury, Brian Albert enlisted his brother Kevin, a Canton police officer, to reach out to Higgins, who had stopped returning his calls.

“Your honor, there’s only one way to interpret that,” Yannetti said. “Brian Albert was panicked that … Brian Higgins had flipped on him. Brian Albert enlists his Canton police officer brother to contact Higgins to try and find out if that was the case.”

During Read’s trial, jurors have so far seen bar surveillance video of Higgins play fighting with Brian Albert and heard about a 1:30 a.m. trip Higgins made to the Canton Police Department — where he had a satellite office — the morning O’Keefe died. Prosecutors on Wednesday filed a notice of discovery indicating they turned over Higgins’s medical records to Read’s lawyers. The court document did not specify prosecutors’ reasons for doing so.

Karen Read trial: Defense grills Brian Higgins on the fate of his cellphone, SIM card (5)

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Karen Read trial: Defense grills Brian Higgins on the fate of his cellphone, SIM card (2024)


What was Karen read in BAC? ›

She had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 93 milligrams per deciliter, or 0.093%. The legal BAC limit in Massachusetts for driving is 0.08%. Later, Nicholas Roberts, who at the time was a member of the Massachusetts Office of Alcohol Testing working with the Massachusetts State Police crime lab unit, took the stand.

Was Karen Read intoxicated? ›

He calculated that her blood alcohol content at 9 a.m., the time of the blood test, was between .078% and .083%, right around the legal limit for intoxication in Massachusetts.

Who is Higgins in Karen Read Case? ›

Karen Read trial: ATF agent Brian Higgins testifies about text exchange with defendant – NBC Boston.

What are the medical issues with Karen Read? ›

In court Wednesday, her attorney argued for lower bail of $5,000, saying Read has multiple medical issues, including a brain tumor, multiple sclerosis and colitis. The judge however said Read "has plenty of reason to flee" and ordered her held on $50,000 bail.

When did Karen Read's trial start? ›

Opening statements took place April 29, and the first witness was called that day. There has already been 18 days of testimony from witnesses called by the prosecution over the course of more than four weeks. Going into the trial, the prosecution had a list of 87 witnesses that could be called.


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