Occupy protester's tweets fair game for prosecutors: judge

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 23, 2012 6:38 PM
Occupy protester's tweets fair game for prosecutors: judge

By Joe Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An Occupy Wall Street protester, arrested during last fall's mass protest on the Brooklyn Bridge, has lost his bid to stop prosecutors from subpoenaing his Twitter records.

Malcolm Harris was among 700 demonstrators arrested on October 1, during a march over the span to protest economic inequality. Prosecutors had been expected to use the tweets to challenge Harris' "anticipated defense" that police officers led protesters onto the bridge before arresting them, the judge said.

At the time police said demonstrators were arrested for blocking traffic on the bridge.

Harris challenged a subpoena that the Manhattan District Attorney's office served on Twitter in January, seeking more than three months' worth of his tweets from last fall.

Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr., who is overseeing a special courtroom dedicated to handling nearly 2,000 Occupy-related cases, ruled against Harris, saying he did not have standing to challenge the subpoena.

The judge compared Harris to a bank account holder who by law cannot challenge a subpoena of his records served on his bank.

"Twitter's license to use the defendant's Tweets means that the Tweets the defendant posted were not his," the judge wrote in a decision filed Friday.

Sciarrino's ruling - which featured a handful of hashtags such as, "That motion is #denied" - could bolster similar subpoenas that prosecutors have served on Twitter seeking records from other Occupy protesters.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Osterman)