[Updated Below] The Maui Police Department has issued a subpoena to obtain the IP addresses of Maui Time web commenters, citing the terroristic threatening of one of its officers.
The comment in question was left in response to an April 14 blog post in which Maui Time publisher Tommy Russo posted a video of himself being assaulted by Maui police officer Nelson Johnson.
The post set off “a firestorm of comments both positive and negative,” according to Russo.
Among the comments:
the MPD,, the ONLY reason I own a LARGE CALIBRE, high powered rifle.
who needs criminals with this bunch of dog eating public menances running around.
Johnson needs a bullet when he walks out his door.
he’s a crooked cop and should be fired or fired upon ..lol..!!
Russo tells AAN that he plans to fight the subpoena.
“The First Amendment protects anonymous online speech and the Hawaii Shield law should protect anonymous sources,” he said. “Providing IP addresses could put these households in physical danger.”
Russo is due to appear in court on June 3 to answer the subpoena. Tim Redmond, the chairman of AAN’s Free Speech Committee and executive editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, said he will ask AAN’s Board of Directors to pass a resolution condemning the actions of Maui authorities.
“I can’t think of anything more chilling to free speech and the rights of a free press than to have the police demanding access to identifying information about people who criticized the police,” said Redmond. “This would set a terrible precedent and is a blatant violation of the First Amendment, and AAN vows to stand behind Maui Time in this fight.”
Updated May 25, 4:07pm: AAN’s Board of Directors has unanimously approved the following resolution:
A RESOLUTION SUPPORTING THE EFFORTS OF MAUI TIME TO RESIST A SUBPOENA THAT VIOLATES THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND THE RIGHTS OF THE FREE PRESS
WHEREAS, Tommy Russo, the editor of Maui Time, a member in good standing of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, was involved in an altercation with the Maui police while he was going about the normal business of reporting a news story, and
WHEREAS, Tommy Russo recorded the incident on video and posted the video and a news story on the Maui Time website, and
WHEREAS, A number of Maui Time readers posted comments on the story, some of them highly criticial of the Maui police, and
WHEREAS, The Maui police and district attorney have issued a subpoena demanding that Maui Time turn over identifying information about all commenters on the story over a 24-hour period, and
WHEREAS, the ability to report on incidents of police abuse is a basic function of a free press, and
WHEREAS, the right of the people to comment on matters of public concern is a fundamental principle of the First Amendment, and
WHEREAS, a court order mandating the release to the police of identifying information about anonymous commenters would have a terrible chilling effect on free speech and undermine the rights of a newspaper to protect anonymous comments and sources,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
That the Board of Directors of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies CONDEMNS the attempt by Maui authorities to force this disclosure, and SUPPORTS the right of Maui Time and Tommy Russo to oppose this subpoena and CALLS ON the district attorney of Maui to immediately withdraw this subpoena and cease all efforts to chill the free speech rights of Maui Time readers.