A D.C. Superior Court judge Friday ordered prosecutors to provide additional details about how they will sort through data from a website linked to Inauguration Day protests without violating users’ privacy and First Amendment rights.
Judge Robert E. Morin last month ruled that Los Angeles-based tech company DreamHost must provide authorities with emails and user information of individuals who requested information from the anti-Trump website Disruptj20.org. Prosecutors sought the details in connection with their investigation into violent Inauguration Day riots.
Morin on Friday said prosecutors have since failed to outline how they plan to streamline their searches so users of the website with no links to the riots are not caught up in the process. Morin said he wanted to know who in the U.S. attorney’s office would review the data and what prosecutors plan to do with information obtained that is not connected to their investigation.
The judge said that, “at this stage, the Court anticipated the government would have included procedures, or at least methodology, by which this minimization would occur.”
The Inauguration Day riots left six police officers injured and caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage when downtown D.C. businesses were vandalized. Prosecutors have filed felony rioting charges against some 200 people who they say participated.
DreamHost had challenged an initial request from prosecutors for data, saying it was overly broad. Prosecutors later narrowed that request, and Morin found the government had legal cause for the search and DreamHost must comply.
“The government must show a compelling interest when it seeks to compel disclosures, such as membership lists, that may indirectly restrict an individual’s ability to freely associate,” Morin wrote.
DreamHost executives have said they are considering appealing the ruling requiring them to turn over the data.
Trials for defendants in the rioting cases are set to begin in November and continue through 2018.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on Morin’s request. A hearing has been set for Wednesday.