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Occupy Protester Loses Bid to Quash Twitter Subpoena.

posted Apr 23, 2012, 10:02 AM by Pete Weinman   [ updated May 13, 2015, 12:50 PM by Lou Bara ]

Andrew Keshner

New York Law Journal


An Occupy Wall Street protester cannot block Manhattan prosecutors from reviewing the tweets he allegedly sent from his Twitter account as he and other demonstrators marched over the Brooklyn Bridge last fall. Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. (See Profile), sitting in Manhattan, on April 20 denied defendant Malcolm Harris' effort to quash a subpoena the Manhattan district attorney's office sent to Twitter. "The widely believed (though mistaken) notion that any disclosure of a user's information would first be requested from the user and require approval by the user is understandable, but wrong," the judge wrote in People v. Harris, 2011NY080152, ordering an in camera inspection before distribution to the prosecution and defense.

Harris is charged with disorderly conduct in the Oct. 1, 2011, march over the bridge that resulted in more than 700 arrests. Prosecutors sought account information for "@destructuremal," alleged to be Harris' account, along with that account's tweets from Sept. 15 to Dec. 31, 2011. The information is necessary, they claim, to counter Harris' anticipated defense that police led him and others onto the bridge's roadway.

Sciarrino noted that New York courts had not yet specifically examined whether criminal defendants have standing to quash subpoenas served on third-party online social networking sites. But he likened the situation to bank records, "where courts have consistently held that an individual has no right to challenge a subpoena issued against the third-party bank." The judge also noted that the terms of Twitter's user agreement means Harris' tweets "were not his."

The decision can be found HERE