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How Should You Destroy A Phone With Incriminating Evidence On It? A Vice Sports Investigation

Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone, and the NFL has punished him for it. Maybe Brady should have destroyed his cellphone better? Here are three ways to do that.
July 29, 2015, 6:30pm
Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the National Football League came down hard on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. This was expected, because Coming Down Hard is what the NFL does on people, but in this case it was not so much because it had any proof that Brady had overseen a sinister campaign to deflate footballs as it was his persistent, obfuscatory tendency to destroy his mobile phones. It was less the crime than the unnecessarily destructive cover-up.

I, personally, don't commit crimes all that often, and so mostly don't have a lot of reasons to destroy cell phones with notable evidence on them. I also don't really even follow the NFL that closely. But I wanted to get inside the head of a great athlete, and experience the criminal thrill of destroying evidence.

Read More: I, Corbin Smith, Challenge Sam Hinkie To A Game Of One-On-One

I went to the Safeway on Hazel Dell Avenue, purchased three pre-paid cell phones—MRSP: $4.99 A piece, plus a $19.99 dollar activation card—and sent three incriminating text messages from them. Nothing as serious as possibly infringing upon the integrity of an NFL Playoff game, but pretty bad stuff. And then I destroyed the phones, to see how every possible method worked, and more importantly how it felt.

Test 1

I sent my friend Bridget this text:

Of course, this is a CLASSIC "Phishing" scam, wherein the scammer sends a promise of future profit to random phone numbers and email addresses in exchange for sensitive financial information. Of course, there is no profit to be had, only the scammer wringing every red cent he possibly can out of your checking account. If someone finds out I tried to run a telephone scam, I could be in a lot of trouble; if Interpol finds out I was impersonating a Nigerian prince, I could wind up in superjail. I needed to destroy the phone. I retrieved my finest hammer and got to work.

PROS: Viscerally satisfying. Swinging a hammer engages the full range of the shoulder's motion, where many of man's most obscure pleasure hormones live. You can hear me yell at the end of this beating: that was the feeling of pure pleasure. Also it was very easy to recycle, so long as you're near a cell phone deposit center.

CONS: The evidence is sitting there, just waiting for some thinks-he's-hot-shit cop to put back together and throw in your face in a court of law. Anyone who shows up in the twenty minutes after you swing is going to see what you did. (Brady's mistake.) I need a method that gets the phone as far away from me as possible.

Test 2

I sent my college pal Jory, a Portland resident, this incriminating text message:

("Kush" for those not familiar, is a popular West Coast brand of hybridized cannabis bud, celebrated by dirtbags for its "Relaxing and Maxing" effects.)

I know what you are saying: "But Corbin: you are a lifelong resident of Washington State, and Portland is in Oregon. Cannabis is, in fact, legal in both of those states!" That's true! BUT: An individual can't have more than one pound of buds at any given time, which means that the amount I offered to sell for $5 is WELL above the established limit, and this is clearly an unlicensed sale outside of a registered Recreational Marijuana shop. (There is a light loophole involving home delivery and "Charitable Donations," but this text is transparently a for-profit proposition.) Also I am offering to transport the product across state lines, a BIG federal trafficking-adjacent no-no. In short, if the coppers get their hands on this, I am in for an UNCOMFORTABLE afternoon of questioning. I need to get rid of the evidence, and it needs to go far away from me. I walked down to the sandy banks of the mighty Columbia River.

PROS: The powerful current of the river gets the phone FAAAAAAAAR away from the disposer. It also takes it between state lines, obscuring questions of jurisdiction. And eventually the phone ends up in the deepest ocean, where the only law is Shark Law. (Sharks do not care about cannabis.) This method also afforded me an opportunity to go to observe a river, arguably the second most powerful body of water. (Behind the justly celebrated ocean, the most powerful single force on Planet Earth.)

CONS: This is certainly littering, which I oppose. If, somehow, the phone ends up in someone's boat, and that person is later arrested, and the phone is then rescued through several hours in a high-grade police rice bag, its owner would be dead to rights. I spent all night tossing and turning, worrying about this possibility. I don't think I will truly relax for a week, until I am SURE the phone is in the jaws of a friendly Ocean Shark.

Test 3

I sent David Roth, professional writer of note, this text:

Roth, known primarily for his elegant prose, bone deep humanism, and deft, humorous touch, may not seem like a cold hearted contract killer to most. But a deeper read of the work reveals a man intimately familiar with the feeling of taking another man's life with his own sheer willpower. I could not think of even one other writer to ask for a "Lethal Favor." (Perhaps Alice Munro, but I do not have her phone number.)

Roth's phone is certainly under surveillance. I am going to need to make thorough work of this phone and convince the police that I am being framed. I boiled a can of beans above my stove. Then…

PROS: Thorough. The heat melts the circuits into an inoperable brick; the water floods the electric components into total inoperability; the bean proteins wipe the tiny hard drive clean, the way proteins do.

CONS: Takes a really long time. Makes the beans taste dreadful.

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IN CONCLUSION: Destroying your phone is harder than it looks, and the evidence of our many crimes is always there to be found, if not by the Roger Goodells on earth, then surely by the Roger God-del on high, who is the Commissioner Of All Things, and who will suspend us from His presence if we do not seek forgiveness for our transgressions. Tom Brady would be wise to learn this.