Maui Police Back Off MauiTime

Last month we told you about MauiTime publisher Tommy Russo, who was involved in a dustup with police after he attempted to film a live taping of Dog the Bounty Hunter on public property. Russo posted a video of the incident on the paper’s website, which drew some supportive, if rough comments.

“The MPD,” one comment read, “the ONLY reason I own a LARGE CALIBRE, high powered rifle.  Who needs criminals with this bunch of dog eating public menaces running around. Johnson needs a bullet when he walks out his door.”

Police used that comment as a pretext to subpoena MauiTime‘s records, supposedly to find the IP address of the commenter. The paper resisted, and was preparing to go to court over the matter. Until last week.

Writes the MauiTime:

MauiTime was preparing for an evidentiary hearing scheduled for June 30 in Judge Joseph Cardoza’s courtroom when we received Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John E. Tam’s June 21 letter. “We have been advised by the Maui Police Department that they have been able to identify a person living on Maui who uses the name “Federal Reserve” on communications to the public,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John E. Tam wrote to MauiTime attorney Philip H. Lowenthal on June 21. “Please therefore advise your client that the subpoena duces tacem that was issued for information on this posted comment is hereby immediately withdrawn.”

On June 23, Lowenthal and fellow attorneys Benjamin E. Lowenthal and Samuel G. MacRoberts filed a notice of withdrawal of our motion to quash the subpoena, officially ending the matter.

And that was it. No apology for putting the legal screws to the paper, trampling the First Amendment, misusing the Grand Jury process or ignoring their own police procedures. Indeed, Tam’s letter indicates that a Maui PD investigator “will seek to locate and interview this person [“Federal Reserve”] regarding a specific comment posted on the Maui Time webpage on April 15, 2011 at www.mauitime.com regarding “[Officer] needs a bullet when he walks out his door.”

“Will” send an investigator? What took them so damn long? Using publicly available Internet search engines, this newspaper was able to determine “Federal Reserve” identity in about 0.17 seconds. Considering that police investigators–even those on Maui–have access to far more databases and investigatory equipment than our little alt weekly, Tam’s statement would be hilarious if it didn’t insult our intelligence so much.

H/T Romenesko

Previously on FishbowlLA: MauiTime Publisher Involved In Scuffle With Police