Cooper trial turns to Internet phone technology
Posted April 6, 2011
Updated April 7, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — An expert in Internet telephone technology, Brad Cooper, had access to equipment to make a call from his home phone from a remote location, but there was no evidence found in his home to suggest he did, a voice technology expert and former coworker said Wednesday.
Brad Cooper, 37, is on trial for first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Nancy Cooper, who prosecutors have said was strangled sometime before sunrise on July 12, 2008, and dumped in a drainage ditch in an undeveloped subdivision 3 miles from their Cary home.
Defense attorneys have said Nancy Cooper went jogging around 7 a.m. that day and never returned home.
Much of Wednesday's testimony from Paul Giralt, an engineer at Cisco Systems Inc. where Brad Cooper had worked as an engineer, focused on a 32-second call from the Cooper home to Brad Cooper's cellphone at 6:40 a.m. that day.
Defense attorneys have said it proves Nancy Cooper was alive because Brad Cooper was on his way to a nearby grocery store for laundry detergent when she called to ask him to also pick up some juice.
The state has suggested that Brad Cooper either made the call remotely or scheduled it using Voice over Internet Protocol technology to make it appear as if his wife were alive. VoIP allows users to use a computer network to make phone calls rather than a traditional, or analog, phone line.
Giralt said Brad Cooper had made an internal purchase at Cisco for a device called an FXO port card that would have allowed him to use his home phone system over the Internet and that there were 10 ways to automate a phone call from the Cooper home.
Investigators, however, never seized an FXO port from the Cooper home, defense attorneys said, and Giralt said that the equipment they did seize would not have been able to accommodate the device.
Brad Cooper did have access to a variety of equipment, Giralt said upon questioning from prosecutors, and Cisco does not track items that employees take home.
Also on Wednesday, Joseph D'Antoni, a former MBA classmate of Brad Cooper, testified that he, Brad Cooper and about a dozen other MBA graduates from North Carolina State University, went on a weeklong trip to France in February 2007.
During the trip, D’Antoni said, Brad Cooper and a woman named Celine Busson were "acting amorous" – holding hands, sitting close and leaning on each other at a dinner and that the two spent time alone together.
Busson was a student in France and part of a team of students participating in the program, D’Antoni said.
"I believe it was Thursday. I noticed that he wasn't wearing his wedding ring," D'Antoni said.
When D'Antoni found out that Nancy Cooper was missing, he recalled, he sent an email to another woman who had been involved in the program.
"Remember the guy who got with the French girl in your class," he read from the email. "His wife went missing. Scary stuff."
During cross-examination, D'Antoni admitted he had speculated about the nature of the relationshp. He wasn't aware if Busson and Brad Cooper ever spent the night together, he said, and he never saw them kiss, although he wasn't paying close attention to them.
Witnesses have testified that the Coopers had been going through a separation after Brad Cooper admitted to an affair with his wife's friend several years earlier. The two initially agreed that Nancy Cooper, a Canadian citizen, would return to Canada with their two children.
But Alice Stubbs, a family law attorney whom Nancy Cooper hired in March 2008, testified that the plans changed when Brad Cooper found out about the financial terms of an April 18 draft of a separation agreement.
"It was related to the money," Stubbs testified Wednesday. "I assumed it was the child support for $2,100 and a cash distributive award, which is normal, but apparently it was not agreed upon by the defendant."
In addition to child support and a $50,000 distributive award, the initial terms had Brad Cooper paying an undetermined amount of alimony for eight years and all costs associated with the children's travel to visit him, extracurricular activities, private-school tuition and health and dental expenses.
He was also to pay all debts incurred during the marriage and having Nancy Cooper listed as the sole beneficiary on his life insurance policy as long as she was living.
Stubbs called the terms aggressive but said they were subject to compromise. But Brad Cooper, she said, never hired an attorney to represent him on the matter.
"I wanted it to be resolved amicably. I wished it could have," she said. "I know Nancy wanted it to."