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Judge quashes subpoena to unmask anonymous commenters

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  1. Newsgathering
A New York judge yesterday granted Straus Newspapers' motion to quash a prosecutors' subpoena that sought the identities of anonymous…

A New York judge yesterday granted Straus Newspapers’ motion to quash a prosecutors’ subpoena that sought the identities of anonymous web posters on a newspaper website, the Hudson Valley Times Herald-Record reported.

The comments appeared on the website of The Chronicle, a weekly paper that covers the cities of Chester and Goshen, N.Y., and were about Helen Ann Livingston, a superintendent who resigned last fall. The subpoena came after multiple unofficial attempts to get the identities.

Orange County Court Judge Nicholas De Rosa, after examining the messages in chambers, sided with the paper’s publisher because the prosecution failed to prove the identities were "critical" to the case being reviewed by the grand jury.

De Rosa said in court that because the comments didn’t rise to the level of a crime or a noncriminal violation, the subpoena could not stand, the Times Herald-Record reported.

"The issue here was not only the disregard for the value of anonymous speech, it was the prosecutor’s effort to make a crime out of the speech itself that made the judge quash the subpoena," said Laura Handman, the attorney for Straus Newspapers.