Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Victory for the First Amendment

So, here's the basic story. Robert D'Angelo sold books through Amazon.com out of his home. Mr. d'Angelo was a Madison, WI city official, and apparently the number of books he sold weren't minor. In fact, 24,000 transactions since 1999 seem to have been identified.

So, federal prosecutors went after him for tax evasion, along with fraud and money laundering charges.

Here's where my issue comes in. They wanted Amazon.com to hand over records for all 24,000 transactions. Not just the fact that Mr. D'Angelo sold which book which day, but apparently, they wanted customer identities, as well. I don't know about you, but I see no reason the government needs a list of the books I read. It would be one thing if Mr. D'Angelo's records were found and the customer info was there. But, they have all that they need to convict with evidence that a transaction indeed took place.

Thankfully, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker sees things my way. He recently unsealed documents detailing the dispute, and let this near-invasion of privacy come to light.

Thank you, Your Honor. Your integrity is appreciated.

Oh, and as a minor detail, prosecutors actually managed to find the information they needed by ummm, well of all things, checking out D'Angelo's computer records. My, my. Imagine that!

The full story is on MSNBC.

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