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Case against Twitter users who posted police locations dropped

During the G-20 summit, rioters and protesters gathered in the streets of Pittsburgh. Police were scattered to maintain safety and control. (credit: File Photo) During the G-20 summit, rioters and protesters gathered in the streets of Pittsburgh. Police were scattered to maintain safety and control. (credit: File Photo)

The Allegheny County District Attorney has dropped all charges against two New York men accused of using social networking to inform the public of police locations during the G-20 summit in September.

The two men, Elliot M. Madison and Michael T. Wallschlaeger, were charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility, and possession of instruments of crime.

The charges were filed after Pennsylvania State Police searched the men’s hotel room at the Carefree Inn in Kennedy early in the afternoon of Sept. 24, the first day of the G-20. The police found Madison and Wallschlaeger listening to police and EMS scanners, tracking the movements of law enforcement, and then forwarding this information to the general public via Twitter and cell phones.

The charges filed against them have been pending before a district judge. However, on Nov. 2, the district attorney’s office withdrew all charges against the men. The charges were dropped after the district attorney consulted with other law enforcement agencies and concluded that the acts that occurred during the G-20 summit were not isolated to this case, but rather were related to more expansive activities that went beyond Pittsburgh.

“It is unbelievable [Madison and Wallschlaeger] were arrested in the first place; we have the freedom of speech in America, and there shouldn’t be any legal repercussions for someone who is only exercising that right,” said Aaron Regal, a first-year art student who was arrested during the G-20. Regal also used technology as a means of communication during the summit: “I was actually texting people during the anarchist rally in Lawrenceville on Sept. 24 — basically just giving people who were interested first-hand updates about what I was seeing and what was going on. I also had my camera with me. I took tons of photos on Thursday during the day; I was actually taking a video on someone’s porch and had a gas canister land right next to me,” Regal said.

Regal was arrested at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Thackery Street in Oakland for failure to disperse, which is a misdemeanor. Regal is currently in the process of completing community service in order to have the charge removed from his record.

“I feel that my civil rights as an American citizen were entirely stripped from me on this day, and this experience has fundamentally changed my emotional and political perspective about our government forever.... I feel that I was assaulted by a dozen police officers, experiencing police brutality on a level that I did not think even occurred in this country,” Regal said.

Claudia Davidson, a Pittsburgh-based attorney representing Madison and Wallschlaeger, said, “The charges have been withdrawn. We never saw the evidence. To me, what they charged them with was probably subject to dismissal by a court because I don’t think what they charged them with was a crime.... My position is that they were charged with acts that are lawful under the First Amendment. It’s pretty simple.”