In the face of a PR nightmare, Pennsylvania authorities have withdrawn all charges against two members of Tortuga accused of using Twitter to aid protesters at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. At a hearing today, instead of oral arguments regarding a defense motion to unseal the secret 18-page affidavit authorizing the arrests of Elliott Madison and Michael Wallschlager at a motel just outside of Pittsburgh, the prosecution immediately moved to withdraw all charges against the two before the defense had a chance to argue its case. Although clear from the beginning that these charges were absurd based on the State’s very own laws, our housemates were incarcerated for 36 hours, had their van towed and belongings confiscated, and one house member was given $30,000 in straight bail.
The District Attorney and his spokesperson were at pains to explain why the State would drop all charges against these dangerous twitterists and of course, refused to admit that these charges were unconstitutional and a heavy-handed attempt to scare anarchists and others from protesting in ways unsanctioned by the government. Instead, the prosecution says they decided that pursuing the charges “would be unwise” after consulting other law enforcement agencies and because of other pending investigations. The secret affidavit authorizing the arrests in Pennsylvania is set to become public on Nov. 23rd. We imagine the Pennsylvania State Police will seek an extension to keep this document sealed—perhaps in order to hide the flimsiness of their secret evidence? However, no matter the reason, we will fight to unseal this document and we will not let the State hide behind sealed evidence, obscure innuendo, and other traditional tactics used by secret police.
Though it is a victory that all the charges against our two housemates were dropped in Pennsylvania, we cannot forget that there is still a mysterious grand jury and other “ongoing investigations” out there. While we may be free from criminal proceedings now, we are still under the threat of future charges/indictments. What these might be, when they might happen, and what cause the State has is, of course, secret. Although our only option is to wait and see, we refuse to let them go about their business ruining our lives in peace and quiet and will continue fighting them every step of the way.
For more information and updates, please go to friendsoftortuga.wordpress.com
Come out tomorrow night to this benefit half of whose proceeds will go to help Tortuga House.
Tortuga House is now tweeting!
Get updates on our legal situation, whether or not we were raided on any given day, and how Sahara the Dog is doing!
Go here: http://twitter.com/tortugahouse
(from Wired Magazine)
An anarchist social worker raided by the feds wants his computers, manuscripts and pick axes back. He argues that authorities violated the U.S. Constitution and the rights of his mentally ill clients while searching for evidence that he broke an anti-rioting law on Twitter.
In a guns-drawn raid on October 1, FBI agents and police seized boxes of dubious “evidence” from the Queens, New York, home of Elliott Madison. A U.S. District Judge in Brooklyn has set a Monday deadline to rule on the legality of the search, and in the meantime has ordered the government to refrain from examining the material taken in the 6 a.m. search.
(read the whole article)
(A nice article from the Queens Tribune)
By Vladic Ravich
Tortuga house, featuring the amazing Sahara Dog...
Elliott Madison opened the door with a lit cigarette between his fingers and invited me into his living room, which is warmly lit, topped with an antique tin ceiling and has a portrait of anarchist founding father Mikhail Bakunin hanging on the wall.
But when he shut the front door behind us, it did not quite close. It’s the same door that was kicked in by the first of 20 FBI agents at six in the morning on Oct. 1, after which they raced up and down the stairs, guns drawn, to search the apartment.
Oh, how the days have flown. Oh, what the days have shown? It is now over two weeks since the raid on Tortuga House, and we are mostly left holding conjecture as to what is going on—the proceedings against us are secretive.
After the injunction (to legally prevent the State from fishing through our belongings) was granted on October 2nd, the court required the government to show probable cause for the search. We anticipated this document and hoped to learn why FBI and NYPD thugs had descended on our house. Instead, we received a document that listed items confiscated from our home during the raid to support the validity of the search warrant that authorized the raid—which included photos taken by the FBI of anarchist stickers, posters, and emergency preparedness items (modeled by a housemate in this YouTube video) we had in the house. The reasoning for such illogic? That the raid is not connected to the arrest of our two housemates in Pittsburgh during the G-20 protests, but rather was spurred by an ongoing federal grand jury investigation—and questions as to the validity of the search can be addressed after any indictments are handed out! Furthermore, the document maintains that the supporting affidavits actually used to authorize the search should remain sealed because “the affidavits here concern an ongoing investigation, and unsealing them would compromise that investigation…[which is] complex and multi-state.”
Ahh, remember the Summer of Tweet-Love? Those heady days in June 09, when pundits and cable news anchors sang the praises of their beloved social media platform Twitter? Remember how we changed our Facebook profile pics to Green in solidarity with Iranian protestors?
Perhaps Eliot Madison was feeling that techno-optimism in late September, when he was arrested in Pittsburgh during the G20 protests. Police stormed his motel room, where Madison and others had set up a communications node (as part of the Tin Can Comms Collective) to gather and distribute information about the demonstrations. This hub contained hardware like police scanners, phones, computers and involved, yes, tweeting. Madison was charged with criminal use of a communication facility, hindering apprehension or prosecution, and possession of instruments of crime. The following week, police raided his home in Jackson Heights, Queens and he and his roommates were detained while the premises were searched for sixteen hours.
So where is all the journalistic gushing over social movement media now? It’s as though the corporate media collectively woke up after a sordid affair and agreed that, “What happens in Tehran, Stays in Tehran.”