But For A Selfie: Cristopher Precopia Lucked Out

From Cristopher “CJ” Precopia’s point of view, his arrest happened on the “good guy curve,” without any clue why cops were there, why they wanted him.

The 21-year-old Williamson County, TX, man told KVUE News he was confusedwhen he was arrested on September 22, 2017 at the lumber yard where he worked. He couldn’t remember when he last spoke to the woman, whom he had dated years earlier in high school.

I had no idea why everything was happening, and I was lost,

The police, of course, knew better, as they always do, even when they’re completely wrong. Obviously, the perp knew why they were there, because they wouldn’t be there if he didn’t know. This was especially true for Precopia, after what he did.

She said he did it. There was the cut to prove it. What more could there be to know?

Precopia was taken to the Williamson County Jail, charged with burglary with the intent to commit other crimes. He faced 99 years in prison. His parents paid his $150,000 bond plus thousands more in legal fees to clear his name.

It might be a stretch to call him lucky, all things considered. He was arrested on a heinous charge, held in custody until his release and facing 99 years in prison. On the other hand, he wasn’t killed for resisting at the time of his arrest, even though he had no clue why cops were there and, as so often happens, might have become angry about the situation, the treatment, the craziness of it all and behaved poorly as a result. Happens all the time to good guys.

When he was held on $150,000 bond, his parents were able to get him out, to pay a lawyer to defend him. Many don’t have the ability to do either, making life not only unpleasant but making the ability to defend oneself far more difficult, if not impossible.

And then came the biggest stroke of luck, one that was purely luck as there was no way in the world this could have been foreseen as a critically important move.

The accuser said the attack happened on September 20, 2017 around 7:20 p.m., but Precopia’s mother, Erin, knew her son wasn’t even in town that night. He was with his mom at a Northwest Austin, TX, hotel — about 65 miles away from where the alleged attack happened.

And Erin had proof. She had taken a selfie with her son that night and posted it to Facebook. The photo was time-stamped and geo-located, proving Precopia was nowhere near the woman the night of the alleged attack.

Actual, hard, irrefutable evidence that Cristopher Precopia was innocent. Not merely “not guilty,” but completely, totally innocent. All because his mother took, and posted to Facebook, a selfie (groupie?). What are the chances?

This almost never happens, and when it does, it’s almost never this certain, this irrefutable. Sure, there are DNA cases that can disprove guilt, but those too are rare. Without this pic, it would have been Precopia’s denial of guilt versus the “X” carved into this woman’s chest. Notably, this woman’s name remains a mystery, despite the now-known fact that she’s the culprit rather than Precopia. Weird how that works, right?

Much of the response to this bizarre case reflects a gross misapprehension of how criminal investigations happen. People question how the cops didn’t conduct any further investigation into Precopia, what his relationship to this woman was, where he was when she claimed he broke into her home and carved an “X” in her chest.

Silly people, there was no cause for investigation. Police don’t engage in random investigation to waste their time, squander their resources, once they know who the perp is and have their case locked up. It’s not about investigating at all, but about finding the perp and nailing him. Once that’s done, the case is done.

The crazy woman, assuming you accept the premise that a woman who carves an “X” in her own chest in order to complain about a guy she dated years before and hasn’t seen since, is crazy, provided all the police wanted or desired. She told them of the break in, the attack and the identity of the perpetrator. What else could they need?

The question still remained: Why had Precopia been arrested, and had police done a thorough investigation? There was hard evidence. It just needed to be found.

Police experts say, in most cases, investigators should try to interview a suspect before filing charges to determine if they have a possible alibi. In Precopia’s case, police reports show he returned a phone call to police and left a message before they moved to arrest him.

The cops don’t seek to exculpate the perp. That they might have questioned him is true, but only to get a confession, or at least an inculpatory statement. They don’t interrogate to learn the truth, but to nail down proof of guilt. So what if Precopia denied committing the crime. That’s what criminals do, deny. And even if they had asked him, on the spot, where he was on that date, who would remember? And even if he remembered, that too is what criminals do, make up alibis to avoid the consequences of their crimes.

But this time, by the grace of god and a mom’s selfie, it was different.

“Most of the time, we deal with gray matters,” attorney Rick Flores said. “It’s not normally black or white. But this is one of those cases where I could definitely prove he did not commit this offense.”

You might think that Flores, selfie in hand, would have shown up at the second court appearance, if not arraignment, cleared up this mess and everybody hugged and kissed, apologized and sent Precopia home with the cops’, prosecutors’ and judge’s best wishes. Nope.

Nine months after Precopia’s arrest, Flores said he took the evidence of an alibi to Bell County prosecutors, who dropped the charge “in the interest of justice.”

Temple Police wouldn’t talk about their handling of the case. Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza said, “We are always willing to listen and examine new information, and that’s exactly what we did in this case.”

Few people would define Garza’s “always willing to listen” as taking nine months to concede that you arrested an innocent man because there was irrefutable proof of innocence. But still, Precopia was lucky, as he could just as easily been staring down 99 years but for that selfie. And those defendants who weren’t so lucky as to have their mom post a selfie wouldn’t have had much of a chance at all.

24 thoughts on “But For A Selfie: Cristopher Precopia Lucked Out

      1. SHG Post author

        And crash and burn. There’s no 1983 suit in the absence of police misconduct causing the indictment or concealing the exculpatory evidence.

  1. Alan

    Those cuts are suspiciously shallow for cuts inflicted by the assailant rather than by the accuser. The prosecution might’ve shrugged that off when (or if) the defense brought that up.

      1. N. Freed

        Not all crazies.

        My father, a doctor, once did an expert witness gig in a civil case where the plaintiff, a worker on an oil rig, had allegedly developed profound foot drop as a result of a severe burn on the back of his calf.

        Asked if this claim was legitimate, my father responded that no, it wasn’t. He proceeded to point out that the tendons that raise the foot are in the front of the leg, and that reaching them through a burn on the back would be … difficult. He then pointed out that given the wasted state of the limb the foot drop was almost certainly congenital. Finally, he remarked that given there were signs of previous injury in the burned area, that this might not be the first time the guy had done this.

        And sure enough, a records check revealed that they were dealing with a serial leg-burner. That’s a hell of a way to make a living.

        All this came out in open court, to the general embarrassment of many. (I have no idea why it didn’t happen during discovery.)

  2. Joe

    Attorney: My client was in Austin that night, September 20th. Here is a Facebook printout, a disk with the metadata, and an affidavit from the computer forensics expert.
    Prosecutor: Oh shit…
    (5 mins later)
    Prosecutor: She says she was never sure of the exact date, but it’s still your guy. We’re offering an M3, non-registerable. If he goes to trial we’re seeking the max. The offer expires in 6 minutes and 23 seconds.

    Only a slight exaggeration of what occurs.

    1. SHG Post author

      If they can, they will. After all, prosecutors always know the deft is guilty, and it’s incumbent upon them to find a way to make sure the case sticks.

      1. Joe

        I’ve found, much to my disappointment, that they often don’t care whether the defendant is guilty, which is why they routinely make M3 non-registerable offers on F2 sex cases. It’s a sad, subservient existence, but after 20 jury trials they’ll each get offered a partner-track associateship at a mid-sized insurance defense firm. Eww.

        1. B. McLeod

          So, you wouldn’t be surprised if the prosecutors didn’t check to see how many other men are currently serving long stretches in prison on accusations from this same woman?

    2. B. McLeod

      That is where she screwed up by making a burglary call that nailed down the date, instead of waiting days after she cut herself to come in with a claim that she was too traumatized to report it immediately and might not be sure of the exact time or date.

  3. Losingtrader

    You’re being melodramatic . It’s 5 to 99……or life.
    As to the comment that even crazies prefer less pain to more, I can personally verify that.

  4. Anton Sherwood

    Nine months after Precopia’s arrest, Flores said he took the evidence of an alibi to Bell County prosecutors

    The most natural (though not formally necessary) reading of this sentence is that Flores presented the alibi after nine months. Really?!

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s impossible to know whether the nine month delay is on Flores’s part, the prosecution’s part or for some other reason. It seems hard to believe that Flores waited nine months, and it could just be imprecise writing.

      1. James L. Smith

        I remember this issue. I read a statement from Precopia saying that neither he nor his lawyer knew the exact date of the alleged battery. It was not until 9 months went by that they got the date by pretrial discovery, and that is when CJ’s mother pulled the metadata on the photo made in Austin which provided CJ with an irrefutable alibi.

        1. SHG Post author

          That doesn’t make a lot of sense, either. The charges usually include the date when the offense is alleged to have happened. It’s not the sort of thing that you don’t find out until discovery.

          1. Nemo

            A bureaucratic screw-up that the prosecution finds to be favorable to nurture via delay and obfuscation strikes you as implausible, perhaps? The moreso because a judge would not be relatively indifferent towards such gamesmanship?

            I’m no longer certain as to which one of us is less cynical.



            1. SHG Post author

              The date of the offense is a ordinarily requirement of a charge (there are some exceptions, but they wouldn’t apply here). Nemo, when you have no clue what you’re talking about, best thing to do is not talk. You’re not contributing anything, making people stupider and annoying me with nonsense. Am I making myself clear?

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