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Twitter Subpoena of N.Y. Protester Is Approved by Judge

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April 23 (Bloomberg) -- Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. may subpoena Twitter Inc. for information about the account of an Occupy Wall Street protester, a judge ruled.

Judge Matthew Sciarrino of New York Criminal Court on April 20 permitted Vance to subpoena Twitter, denying a request by the protester’s lawyer to invalidate the subpoena. Vance wants information about the “@destructuremal” account of Malcolm Harris, who was arrested Oct. 1 with about 700 protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge, according to a court filing.

“Twitter’s license to use the defendant’s Tweets means that the Tweets the defendant posted were not his,” the judge wrote in a 12-page ruling.

Prosecutors said in a court filing that the Tweets are needed because Harris has advanced a defense to disorderly conduct charges that contradicts his public statements.

“Defendant has made clear through various public statements that he was well aware of the police instructions that day, and acted with the intent of obstructing traffic on the bridge,” prosecutors wrote.

Martin Stolar, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, which is representing protesters, didn’t immediately return a call for comment on the ruling.

“It’s our policy to notify users about law enforcement and governmental requests for their information, unless we are prevented by law from doing so,” Twitter spokesman Robert Weeks said in an e-mailed statement, declining further comment.

Subpoena ‘Overbroad’

The Lawyers Guild is providing free defense for arrested Occupy Wall Street protesters including Harris. The group has provided attorneys for almost 2,200 people since protests began Sept. 17, according to a statement.

In court papers, Stolar argued that the subpoena “is overbroad, issued for an improper purpose, and constitutes an abuse of court process.”

In January, a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, allowed federal prosecutors to subpoena information from Twitter accounts of three WikiLeaks backers as part of a U.S. probe of the group’s publication of classified information.

The case is People of the State of New York v. Harris, 11-80152, New York Criminal Court (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: David Glovin in New York at dglovin@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.

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