17 Apr 2019

Top military attache Alfred Keating 'absurdly unlucky' if innocent - court told

3:19 pm on 17 April 2019

The Crown says a top military attache accused of planting a covert camera in a bathroom in New Zealand's US embassy is "absurdly unlucky" if innocent.

Alfred Keating heading into the Auckland District Court

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Alfred Harold Keating, 59, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempting to make an intimate visual recording, in his trial at Auckland District Court this month.

The 59-year-old was the highest ranking New Zealand Defence Force official in the United States when a Brickhouse Security camera was found on the floor of a bathroom in the New Zealand Embassy in Washington DC on 27 July 2017.

Mr Keating has categorically denied the allegations. His lawyer Ron Mansfield compared the Crown's case to a celebrity magazine in a waiting room with stories that he said did not live up to its racy headlines.

In a closing address this morning, Crown prosecutor Henry Steele told the jury the suggestion that Mr Keating was a victim of circumstance defied logic.

"Two possibilities present themselves to us: either he has been absurdly unlucky and finds himself the victim of a remarkable series of unfortunate but ultimately innocent coincidences or Commodore Alfred Keating, defence attache to the United States, is the bloke who put the camera in the toilet."

During the trial the court has heard a DNA profile found on the covert camera's memory card was 10,000 million times more likely to be Mr Keating's than a random New Zealander's; the strongest result possible in the field of DNA analysis.

It also heard Mr Keating's personal laptop had at one time been connected to a Brickhouse Security camera and Google searched 'brickhouse camscura modes' and 'brickhouse camscura switch positions' on 25 July, two days before the camera was found in the bathroom.

Last week the jurors were played the first of 21 video files recovered on the device, which showed an unidentified person wearing blue latex gloves planting the camera.

Mr Steele said the video showed the person was Caucasian, wearing a short-sleeved white shirt, black trousers and had thick, fair arm hair; physical features Mr Keating shared.

It's the Crown's case that Mr Keating was filmed setting up the camera and then remained in the bathroom to be filmed using the toilet.

Mr Steele said a male filmed using the toilet 55 seconds after the first recording ends was wearing a black Fitbit watch, identical to one Mr Keating was known to own and wear.

"Why make the second video? Why would you do that? Well, perhaps plausible deniability. He knows the camera is motion-activated, has been careful to ensure he's not in the first video.

"[Maybe] he wants to set himself up as the first victim? Maybe it's all part of the thrill? Maybe he just finished the set up and needed to go to the bathroom? Who knows."

Mr Steele said while one part of this evidence would warrant little more than suspicion, the cumulative weight of it proved Mr Keating's guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

"Elevating what would otherwise be suspicion to proof beyond reasonable doubt when we consider the evidence as a whole."

"The Crown says it simply isn't plausible, it denies all logic and common sense, to suggest Mr Keating is a simply the victim of circumstance."

Mr Keating's defence lawyer Ron Mansfield began his closing remarks by drawing parallels with the management of the embassy to the an episode of Dad's Army.

"Sadly the words inept and incomplete are the only appropriate ways to describe the management of the event which took place on 27 July in 2017 and following."

Mr Mansfield told the jury they could not rely on the DNA evidence as it had been contaminated and disregarded the digital forensic evidence, saying Mr Keating could have completely destroyed his electronics if he needed to cover his tracks.

"The DNA evidence takes you nowhere and any reliance on it potentially places us all at risk of an injustice. In relation to the DNA evidence you need to put it to one side; the risks are too grave."

He said Mr Keating was at risk of injustice after years of service and told the jury it could not be assured of his guilt due to "significant holes and deficiencies" in the Crown's case.

"I don't address you in this way to cause outrage to you regarding the management of our embassy. I address you in this way out of outrage because key evidence has been lost by that inept and incomplete management and investigation.

"What you're left with folks is a very incomplete picture of what could have been gathered if this item was treated as it should have been; if this incident was treated as it should have been. As a community we should expect better."