Thursday, May 26, 2011


Maui police subpoena commenters’ IP addresses in overbroad subpoena of Mauitime website

by Larry Geller

Have you commented on a blog? Do you think that police should be able to identify you if you choose to be anonymous or to use a screen name?

Maui police are extending a wide net to subpoena all commenters’ personal information on the MauiTime website over a 24-hour period. It doesn’t matter if the comment was “Hey, way to go!” or one of the usual nastygrams that pollute many newspaper and blog websites. The Maui police want all of them.

If you’ve recently left a comment on MauiTime’s Web site, your personal information could soon be in the hands of the Maui Police Department. Last week, MPD and the county prosecutor’s office issued a subpoena ordering the release of Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses for all comments left at during a specified 24-hour period.

The subpoena bars MauiTime from “notifying the account holders,” as that could “jeopardize [a] felony investigation.” But the comments—totaling more than two dozen—were posted in response to a story and video depicting an altercation between Publisher Tommy Russo and MPD Officer Nelson Johnson

[, Maui Police Department Targets MauiTime’s Online Commenters, 5/25/2011]

According to the article, Maui police say they are looking for an anonymous comment they characterize as “terroristic threatening.”  However, the subpoena does not ask for that particular comment (which is easy to identify) but a whole day’s IP addresses. If it should succeed, it could have a chilling effect on anyone thinking of expressing an opinion on any article on that website. Note that the Maui police would be collecting IP addresses of commenters on any and all articles within that time period.

Disappeared News reported on the original incident, including an enhanced photo which could clearly identify the police officer involved, in MauiTime publisher Tommy Russo videorecords his alleged assault by “Dog” Chapman security guard and Maui police (4/15/2011). That article gathered nine comments, a rather large number for a Neighbor Island article not related to the Superferry. But then, it certainly had celebrity interest because of the involvement of “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”

Clearly, the incident itself was a matter of some public interest, and one way the public expresses itself these days is by posting comments to Internet web sites.

A subpoena this broad, made by a government agency, is a clear infringement of free speech rights. The Maui police may or may not have an issue with one commenter, but not with any others.

If the report of the original incident is accurate, Maui police are badly in need of an education. Generally, police may not prevent a citizen, whether a reporter, blogger, or ordinary shmo, from photographing them from a public vantage point as they go about their business (this is one of he issues in the MauiTime article which attracted the comment in question). They also may not gather IP addresses, which can be used to identify persons who access a website, on a whim. In our society, unfortunately, police are seldom held accountable when they themselves break the law.

There seem to be a few things Maui police need to learn about the first amendment at least. As a blogger I was glad to learn that MauiTime publisher Tommy Russo will fight the subpoena.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


Larry in case the Maui Police came a calling looking for Old Diver and accused Old Diver of making comments defending the US Constitution, would you turn over Old Diver to the Maui Police Department?

What? And lose my chief commenter? Where would this blog be without Old Diver.

I don't keep IP addresses anyway. I'm sure Blogger does, but one way to avoid having to turn over information is not to keep the information in the first place. Your IP address is safe with me because I don't have it. Of course, there's nothing to say what Google-owned Blogger would do.

Applaud to Tommy Russo for doing the right thing.
This is really crossing over, and very dangerous for too many reasons to list.
It has to stop here. Or next theyʻll try to retroactively pull peopleʻs comments.
This may be one of those test cases to see how far it can go.
Itʻs in the best interest of Google owned Blogger or all other providers to fight this.

Whew, thanks Larry. The Maui Police Departments action amounts to getting a search warrant for every home in Hawaii Kai because they suspect someone in Hawaii Kai is selling drugs. Who in the heck was the judge that issued that subpoena? And where did they get their law degree?

Thatʻs a good analogy.

The subpoena bars MauiTime from “notifying the account holders,”
How did they get that included? Now everyone is punished or jeopardized and rights denied because of one purported crime.
How this is proceeding is a case of lawlessness.

MPD is a hot bed of criminal racketeering, from drug extortions and shakedowns to malicious prosecutions to murder. Chief Thomas Phillips was put under Citizen's Arrest for misprison of felonies and violations of Oath of Office during official Police Commission meeting held on Molokai in front of commission members and chairman Poncho Alcon and about 17 MPD officers who physically blocked the arrestor George Peabody editor of Molokai Advertiser-News from taking Chief Phillips into custody. Then to compound this interference by MPD of a Citizen's Arrest action, the Police Commission refused to include the incident details in the official minutes of that meeting, thus falsifying the government record, another felony of which the secretary and Commissioners and all those cops are guilty including the current Chief. Prosecutors won't do anything about that case. Prosecutors also will not do anything about another case in which 6-8 MPD offiers Lts. and Capt. and Sgts were caught with MPD auto firearms shooting Molokai deer at Kaluakoi: firearms and hunting and trespassing crimes. Complainent George Peabody's name was removed from the Complaint by Chief Thomas Phillips for the purpose of denying investigation information to George Peabody and Molokai Advertiser-News
A case of felony criminal property damage last month on Molokai involving Puu O Hoku Ranch owner Lavinia Currier and her 8 employees who chainsawed and destroyed the residence lanai of Mateo Madani in remote east Molokai valley of Honoulimaloo has been covered up and prosecutors are doing nothing and George Peabody's name was again removed from the complaint by MPD police for the purpose of denying investigation information and prosecution information [MPD Complaint#11-009-413 and Prosecutor case #11-1448 James Tam and John Kim] to him as is the Right of the Complainant. Is it just a coincidence that Lavinia Currier enteratains MPD and Prosecutors at her Puu O Hoku Lodge that the case against her is a case of special treatment and protection. Former Maui Prosecutor Larry Butrick under that criminal Linda Lingle is now a Maui 2nd Circuit judge per Lingle, and he is likely the MPD rubber stamper. They won't tell me anything, so if you find out, let me know.
George Peabody editor for Molokai Advertiser-News since 1984

correction: change name from Larry Butrick to Rick Bissen former Maui prosecutor under Lingle who she appointed to judge in 2nd Circuit as likely MPD rubber stamper in the Tommy Russo case of MPD police officer Johnson attacking Russo.
ekalmai ! George Peabody

Who would think there is such controversy on Maui. I'm serious. This is really an Oahu-centric blog simply because I am here. So your comments are really disappeared news to me.

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