Richmond police officers and their families could be safer after documents that listed their names and addresses are now off the Internet. A judge ordered two anarchist organizations take down the list they had posted on their web sites.
NBC12 has known about the posting of these documents on the web for several weeks. Police asked us to hold off on reports to protect the lives of officers and their families. We're bringing you the story now because the information has been taken down and a judge unsealed the court papers.
Ruffling the feathers of authority is nothing new for two of the defendants named in the injunction. Mo Karn is part of The Wingnut Anarchist Collective and Nathan Cox tries to hold police accountable with Virginia CopBlock.
But according to a Richmond Police Department complaint, the documents go a step further. They place officers in danger by showing names, home addresses and phone numbers. It also argues the unveiling could diminish the success of undercover operations.
Links to the files were posted online for anyone to find. Andrew Bodoh, who represents Karn and Cox, says this boils down to a freedom of speech issue.
"The first amendment to constitution of United States and the Virginia constitution both protects the public's ability to speak about truthful matters and to publish truthful information in their possession," he explained.
The question remains, how did the documents get out there in the first place? Bodoh says in a radio interview, an anonymous man admits to finding a portable hard drive on a sidewalk near a trash can.
The judge's order says if the defendants have the flash drive, they need to bring it to the court. Bodoh is not saying, however, his clients have possession. He maintains someone already published the information online; his clients simply posted links.
"Any member of the public could be brought into this lawsuit on the grounds that they somehow are involved in this," he added.
A spokesperson for the police department declined to comment for our story.
The next hearing is scheduled for February.
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