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Monday, April 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Aggressive Tweeter|Can’t Quash Subpoena

WASHINGTON (CN) - An anonymous Tweeter who wrote of his "desire to engage in sadomasochistic activities" with Michele Bachmann cannot quash a subpoena that will force Twitter to release his identity to a grand jury, a federal judge ruled.

The man, whom U.S. Chief Judge Royce Lamberth referred to as "Mr. X" in his ruling, was able to have his name and Twitter identity redacted from the order.

According to the ruling, last year Mr. X tweeted: "I want to fuck Michelle Bachman in the ass with a Vietnam era machete."

Lamberth stated: "Unfortunately, an overview of Mr. X's Twitter page is warranted. Mr. X's body of tweets is extremely crude and in almost incomprehensibly poor taste. Occasionally political but consistently vacuous, his oeuvre represents an infantile attempt at humor that brings to mind the most obscene aspects of Andrew Dice Clay, but without even the infinitesimal modicum of artistic creativity that Mr. Clay managed to possess."

Lamberth affirmed Mr. X's First-Amendment right to tweet anonymously, but because the government "can show 'a compelling interest in the sought-after material' and 'a sufficient nexus between the subject matter of the investigation and the information they seek,'" the man's motion to quash the subpoena must be dismissed.

"The anonymity of a threatening communication introduces an element of ambiguity that renders an assessment of the threat's legitimacy difficult," Lamberth wrote. "A reasonable recipient of such a threat simply may not know whether she ought to take it seriously."

The tweet constitutes a threat, Lamberth said: "What Mr. X is describing is the forcible insertion of an extremely sharp, real-world weapon into Ms. Bachmann's rectum, which, if performed, would undoubtedly cause serious bodily injury - and likely death."

Though the subpoena will be enforced, Lamberth agreed in a separate order to redact Mr. X's identity from public documents for now, and will not release the information to his friends, family and employer.

Lamberth's Memorandum and Order denying Mr. X's motion to quash cites several other postings from Mr. X, which also may objectively be described as obscene and tasteless.

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