Lawrence man convicted of all 3 counts in burglary case that used ‘geofence’ evidence
photo by: KBI Violent Offender Registry
A Douglas County jury on Friday convicted a man of multiple crimes related to entering a woman’s home in a case in which police used Google data, among other evidence, to identify him.
Lee Andrew Mitchell Pennington, 34, was charged with felony aggravated burglary, felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor stalking. He was convicted of all three crimes.
As previously reported by the Journal-World, the charges stem from an incident sometime before 5 a.m. on Oct. 30, 2021, when Pennington was accused of entering a woman’s bedroom in central Lawrence, covering her mouth to prevent her from screaming and then fleeing the scene.
Lawrence police identified Pennington after using surveillance video of his vehicle from nearby Bullwinkle’s Bar, Google “geofence” data and DNA evidence taken from the victim’s windowsill.
Police tracked the vehicle through the surrounding neighborhoods to establish a “geofence” around his area of travel. Once they had defined the area, they issued a warrant to Google to collect anonymous data from all Google-connected devices within the geofence and then connected the car’s path with the path of one of the devices. Investigators issued additional warrants to Google to get identity information about the device’s owner, Pennington, as well as additional data that showed where the device was before and after the break-in occurred.
At trial, Pennington acknowledged having been in the area the night of the incident, but said that he was selling various drugs at a nearby residence, the location of which Google may have detected, and was not actually in the woman’s house.
“I feel sorry for the victim and what happened to them, but it was not me,” Pennington said Thursday when he took the stand in his own defense.
Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden argued that despite no one in the woman’s residence being able to identify Pennington as a suspect, the combination of video, location data and DNA evidence at the scene was sufficient to show that Pennington committed the crimes.
Pennington’s defense attorney, Carol Cline, argued that the evidence was all circumstantial and that none of it actually showed that Pennington was inside the house.
“You can’t convict him because he was in the area,” Cline argued Thursday during closing arguments.
Pennington was returned to the Douglas County Jail after the verdict was read Friday. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 21.
Pennington has previously been convicted of violent felonies in Douglas County. In 2008, he was convicted of multiple counts of aggravated robbery with a weapon and was sentenced to 132 months, or 11 years, in prison, according to court records. He is ordered to register as a violent offender stemming from those crimes until 2033, according to KBI records.