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Judge: Mobile phones in tiger attack may be inspected

Calif. judge says that the San Francisco Zoo may look for incriminating photographs on cell phones owned by two men who were mauled by a tiger last month.

File photo: This is a tiger. Do not taunt. Declan McCullagh/

A California judge has said the San Francisco Zoo may inspect the mobile phones of two brothers involved in a deadly tiger attack on Christmas Day.

Superior Court Judge Socrates Peter Manoukian in Santa Clara County ruled late Friday that the city and the zoo can review the devices for photographs that might provide clues about what happened that day, and for logs of conversations near the time of the 911 call.

He wrote: "Under the maxim that a picture is worth a thousand words the Court believes that the allegation of existence or nonexistence of any photographs is specific enough to justify an attempt to perpetuate them."

The defendants in the civil lawsuit are brothers Kulbir Dhaliwal and Amritpal Dhaliwal. They were mauled during the tiger attack and their friend, Carlos Sousa Jr., was killed. The tiger pen's wall was only 12.5 feet high, 4 feet below generally accepted safety standards. The Siberian tiger, Tatiana, was shot dead by police that day.

Manoukian said, however, that the city and the zoo could not inspect the contents of the car. (There have been reports that a bottle of alcohol was present.) Their attorney has called these efforts a fishing expedition.

It's unclear what the real impact of this ruling will be--that's because the San Francisco Police Department has obtained a search warrant allowing them to examine the car and mobile phones in conjunction with a separate criminal investigation.