Man, located after he left phone at robbery, now pleads guilty to kidnapping

Enlarge / The Vallejo Police Department originally labelled the kidnapping as a hoax. (credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News)

The man accused of masterminding an elaborate tech-fueled kidnapping scheme in Vallejo, California, has pleaded guilty.

Thomas Johnson—the attorney representing Matthew Muller, who is himself a former United States Marine and disbarred lawyer—had previously put forward a novel legal theory during a federal court hearing in Sacramento earlier this year.

Johnson argued unsuccessfully that, because his client had not, in fact, abandoned a Samsung Galaxy phone following a separate June 2015 burglary in Dublin, California, Muller did have a privacy interest in the phone. When law enforcement used the handset to call 911 to determine its number, they eventually located its owner. Muller was arrested days later. (In this case, the judge didn’t buy Johnson’s argument—the search was not considered unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.)

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