Tom Corbett's office has withdrawn its Twitter subpoena. Here's the story:
Attorney General Tom Corbett's office has withdrawn the subpoena it filed with Twitter, seeking to find the identities of two users who have been critical of Mr. Corbett on the social networking site.
Prosecutors said they do not need to know the identities, now that former Democratic aide Brett Cott has been sentenced to up to six years in jail for his role in the Bonusgate probe. They claimed Mr. Cott was the anonymous blogger CasablancaPa, whose identity they were seeking from Twitter, along with user "bfbarbie."
Mr. Cott's defense team denied there was any proof that he was the blogger, who has regularly criticized Mr. Corbett on his site. The Twitter users were poised to try to block the subpoena with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
The ACLU's help will not be needed, but its legal director Witold Walczak this afternoon called the withdrawn subpoena "an abuse of the grand jury system, to go on a fishing expedition to determine whether Twitter users were the defendant, with the purpose of sentencing."
Deputy Attorney General E. Marc Costanzo said today the attorney general's office had no intention of violating anyone's First Amendment rights to free speech by issuing the subpoenas -- he said they were issued for "legal reasons, allowed by law. They had nothing to do with bloggers or tweets of people."
He said the state was trying to show that harsh, negative criticism of Mr. Corbett, especially in the blog CasablancaPA, was "part of Brett Cott's demeanor,"' and showed that he had no "remorse or contrition" about what he'd done. He said Mr. Cott's demeanor was a proper subject to be considered at sentencing.
In the attorney general's memo given to the judge before the sentencing, 17 "aggravating factors" were listed, showing that in the state's opinion Mr. Cott deserved a strong punishment.
One paragraph reads: "Defendant has extensively and anonymously utilized a blog entitled 'CasablancaPA, Exposing the hypocrisy of Tom Corbett,' to deflect blame and deny responsibility for his criminal conduct, and to attack and malign the investigative and prosecutorial process which resulted in his conviction."
Attorney general officials said they think Mr. Cott is behind the blog, but his attorney, Bryan Walk, said they have been unable to show any proof of that.
"The attorney general tried to subpoena Twitter records and intimidate people," he said. "The attorney general's office should be ashamed." He said people's free speech rights "were violated by the Twitter subpoenas. They are trying to limit comments by anyone opposed to the state."