Constitutional Law

Paralegal Fights Search of His Home Over Tweets About Police Activities

While at least arguably participating in the protests of the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh in September, Elliott Madison was arrested and spent some time in a local jail.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. On Oct. 1, federal authorities raided his home in the Queens borough of New York City and seized computers, political books and DVDs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among other material. They were searching for evidence that the self-described anarchist and volunteer paralegal had used Twitter to relay information from a police scanner and help direct protesters away from hot spots where they might be arrested, reports the Threat Level blog of Wired.

Madison’s alleged crime: Violating 18 U.S.C. §2101, the federal statute famously used to prosecute the Chicago Seven four decades ago over their protests of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He is challenging the search of his home on constitutional grounds in federal court in New York, claiming that the law is vague and overbroad and that the search of his home for information about his political views violated his First Amendment rights. He has no prior record of any conviction, the blog article notes.

A U.S. District Court judge in Brooklyn is expected to rule as soon as today on Madison’s motion to suppress evidence from the search. In the meantime, the government has been ordered not to examine the seized material.

A spokesman for the New York U.S. Attorney’s office declined Threat Level’s request for comment.

Additional and related coverage: “40 Years Later, ‘Chicago 7’ Trial Still an Iconic Event”

New York Times: “Arrest Puts Focus on Protesters’ Texting”

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