Mom of missing teen sues to stop phone release

Posted at 4:26 PM, Apr 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-25 19:59:28-04

The mother of Perry Cohen, a Jupiter teen who got lost at sea during a fishing trip with his friend Austin Stephanos last summer, has filed an injunction against the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and the parents of Austin Stepanos.

The complaint seeks to stop FWC from delivering Austin's phone back to Blu Stephanos and Carly Black. It also asks that the FWC be prevented from returning the shipping container with Austin's boat and other personal items to any private party.

The lawsuit by Pamela Cohen claims that on the day the boys went missing, Perry's phone was not working and he used Austin's phone to send messages to family and friends. The Cohens believe that the information on the phone must be collected by tech experts who have the expertise to extract it without destroying it.

(Read the full complaint below)

Also Monday, Blu Stephanos posted a statement to the AustinBlu Foundation Facebook page:

With regards to my Son’s iPhone; we’ve been working very closely with FWC since they received the phone and have the utmost confidence in them. In addition, we’ve been working with the phone’s manufacturer who seems willing to help us try to get the phone operational again. That would be the first order of business, since Austin’s phone has been submerged in salt water for over eight months. We’ve also had an IT expert access the phone’s Cloud backup and, unfortunately, found that it had never been enabled.

In light of the recent San Bernardino incident involving attempts by the FBI to retrieve data from a locked iPhone, we felt that it would be best to avoid the pressures of having these efforts played out in the media. We didn’t want to do anything publicly that might jeopardize the cooperation of the manufacturer. Unfortunately, I feel that the recent publicity and wild speculation may have done just that.

Of course, any relevant information that might be retrieved from Austin’s phone will be shared with the Cohen family and the proper authorities.
To me, this phone represents a connection with my son, so I thank you all for your continued support and understanding in this very sensitive, and very personal, matter.

-Blu Stephanos

Earlier Monday, the Cohens asked for the State Attorney's Office to get involved in a dispute over a recovered iPhone.

Early Monday, Pamela Cohen and her husband, Nicholas Korniloff, and their attorney met with Dave Aronberg's staff. The Cohens are asking the Stephanos family to release the phone, to allow authorities to examine it for clues into their sons' disappearance.

At the moment the phone is in the custody of  Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators.

An attorney for the Cohens said the State Attorney could not interfere with the matter, because of the nature of the investigation (a missing's persons case) it would be up to law enforcement to solicit the State Attorney before they get involved.

Cohen's attorney says, FWC is treating this as an active and open investigation.

Today the FWC said the boat is scheduled to arrive at Port Everglades on May 16. It says that because this is not a criminal case, the items that were on board the boat will be returned to the families of the victims and "subsequent information retrieval efforts from any of those items will be at their discretion. The FWC will examine the vessel for any new information, and return the boat to the family."

Pamela Cohen v. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Carly Black and William Blu Stephanos

On Sunday, Pamela Cohen released this statement; it followed two other statements from the family, released on Saturday, after authorities said the boat that carried the two missing teens had been found off the coast of Bermuda.

Missing Florida teens: Full coverage

The 19-foot vessel was discovered by Multi Purpose Supply vessel "Edda Fjord" on March 18, while en route to Norway. Personal items, including a cell phone and plastic tackle boxes, were found on board.

READ RELATED: USCG: Missing Jupiter teens, Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, boat found off Bermuda Coast

"Stephanos family has not provided consent to (the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) to have the iPhone remain in the custody of law enforcement for data retrieval," said a statement posted Saturday on Pamela Cohen's Facebook page.

On Saturday's statement Pamela Cohen asks the Stephanos family to allow authorities to retain and analyze the phone.

"We urge Austin’s Family to do the right thing and to allow law enforcement to retain the iPhone until arrangements can be made to retain the top forensic teams available to begin to look for answers we so desperately need."

No statements from the Stephanos family have been released, following the discovery of the vessel.

Read the full statement released by Pamela Cohen Sunday:

Sunday Update - Pamela Cohen

"The fact that since mid March and as of today April 24th, the Stephanos family has not provided consent to FWC to have the iPhone remain in the custody of law enforcement for data retrieval is not only incomprehensible to us as parents, it is also an insult to our community, the men and woman in uniform from local and government agencies and the tens of thousands of private citizens, volunteers and children nationwide that worked and prayed so tirelessly in the search and rescue efforts to find our son Perry and his dear friend Austin. In light of the new evidence of the missing boat and Iphone, and the lack of cooperation from the Stephanos family, and the fact that FWC informed us late Friday afternoon, April 21st of the decision that the Iphone would be turned over to Blu Stepahnos on Monday morning April 26th without any examination by authorities. We have no choice but to reach out to State Attorney Dave Aronberg’s office who can simply issue a warrant which would allow FWC to turn over the phone to proper investigating authorities so the phone can be evaluated by experts."

Pamela Cohen
Perry's Mom
The Perry J. Cohen Foundation