A Suffolk Superior Court judge made a decision in a private conference during a hearing held yesterday about a Twitter user linked to Occupy Boston, but it will be stayed for 10 days to allow attorneys to appeal, a court official said yesterday.
At the court hearing, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union sought to quash a Dec. 14 subpoena from Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley for information from Twitter about a user, "p0isAn0N," who is involved with the Occupy Boston movement.
Attorney Peter Krupp, working on behalf of the ACLU, filed a motion to invalidate the subpoena on First Amendment grounds.
After a sidebar conference that was closed to reporters and lasted more than 30 minutes, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol Ball made a decision yesterday on the motion to invalidate the subpoena, but the ruling was sealed.
After the hearing, Joan Kenney, a spokeswoman for the state court system, said she could not confirm whether the judge allowed the subpoena to stand, but said the judge determined the subpoena was issued in connection to a criminal investigation.
Kenney said the proceedings were part of a pending grand jury investigation. A spokesman for the district attorney's office, Jake Wark, declined to comment.
After yesterday's hearing, Krupp said he was not allowed to talk about the judge's decision, but said he was displeased that the subpoena was being used to infringe on free speech.
"When an administrative subpoena is used to get information that's protected by the First Amendment, that raises particularly troubling issues," Krupp said.
Krupp said he and other lawyers representing the Twitter user will have to consider their options on what to do after the judge's decision.
After the judge's ruling, Wark said: "Broadly speaking, we use subpoenas to investigate and prosecute criminal acts, not political speech. Suggestions to the contrary are simply unfounded."
Krupp declined to give the real name of the "p0isAn0N" Twitter user, who calls himself Guido Fawkes online and would not say whether he lives in the Boston area. He was not at the hearing, Krupp said.
The subpoena asks for subscriber information, such as Internet protocol addresses, related to the accounts "p0isAn0N" and "OccupyBoston," as well as anyone who used the hashtag-keywords #BostonPD or #d0xcak3 between Dec. 8 and Dec. 13.
Bloggers and other Twitter users have speculated that the investigation is related to the police raid on Dec. 10 that evicted Occupy Boston demonstrators. They have also conjectured that the subpoena is related to a tweet that the user sent in October linking to a website that published personal information about Boston police officers, which was apparently taken from a members-only police union website.
User "p0isAn0N" used the hashtag #d0xcak3 when tweeting the link, according to bloggers.
The district attorney's two-page subpoena was not released by the court, but was made public by the "p0isAn0N" user last week. Twitter notified that user when the company received the subpoena for information about the user's account and provided a copy of the request from the district attorney.
Matt Graves, a spokesman for Twitter, said yesterday that he could not comment on a specific subpoena. However, he said Twitter tries to alert users about subpoenas related to their Twitter accounts.
"To help users protect their rights, it is our policy to notify our users about law enforcement and governmental requests for their information, unless we are prevented by law from doing so," Graves said in an e-mail.
According to Twitter's official policy, the only situations for which the company refrains from notifying a user about a request for information about their account is when they are "prohibited from doing so by statute or court order."
A gag request in a subpoena does not fall under the guidelines of legislative or judicial requests that Twitter would respond to.
By Martine Powers, Globe Staff, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The Boston Globe