AG’s of­fice: County email re­view lim­ited

Agents will only view mes­sages re­lated to prison probe

The Times-Tribune - - Front Page - BY TERRIE MOR­GAN-BESECKER

The state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice only will re­view in­for­ma­tion on seized elec­tronic de­vices that is re­lated to its on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Lack­awanna County, an at­tor­ney for the of­fice said in court pa­pers.

Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Re­becca A. Elo said that be­cause of the na­ture of the elec­tronic de­vices, the of­fice had to con­fis­cate them in their en­tirety, in­clud­ing the county’s email server, dur­ing its Sept. 21 raids at Lack­awanna County Prison and sev­eral other county of­fices.

How­ever, it has pro­ce­dures in place to en­sure emails of any­one not con­nected to its in­ves­ti­ga­tion are not viewed, Elo said.

The as­sur­ances are con­tained in a re­ply Elo filed late Mon­day to the county’s mo­tion that seeks the re­turn of all items the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice and state po­lice seized dur­ing their searches at the county prison, its work re­lease cen­ter, the county’s ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices and the 911 cen­ter.

County of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged the searches are re­lated to a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged sex­ual abuse of in­mates

at the county prison. In ad­di­tion to seiz­ing doc­u­ments, the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice sub­poe­naed sev­eral county em­ploy­ees to tes­tify be­fore a grand jury in Nor­ris­town.

In a mo­tion filed in Lack­awanna County Court last week, Dan Brier, an at­tor­ney spe­cially ap­pointed to rep­re­sent the county in the grand jury probe, al­leges the searches were il­le­gal be­cause the war­rants were overly broad. That al­lowed au­thor­i­ties to con­fis­cate items that go be­yond the scope of the prison in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he said.

Brier noted au­thor­i­ties seized the county’s en­tire email server, which con­tains com­mu­ni­ca­tions of county judges and ev­ery county em­ployee dat­ing back to 2002, as well as hun­dreds of other items, in­clud­ing en­tire com­put­ers and more than 240 hard drives.

A hear­ing on the mat­ter is sched­uled for 9 a.m. today in Lack­awanna County Court.

The re­ply chal­lenges the mo­tion on sev­eral pro­ce­dural and le­gal grounds. It also ar­gues the en­tire Lack­awanna County bench must be re­cused from hear­ing the mat­ter since is­sues at stake in­volve the judges, cre­at­ing a con­flict of in­ter­est.

Re­gard­ing claims that the war­rants were overly broad, Elo ac­knowl­edged that elec­tronic de­vices may con­tain data that is not within the pa­ram­e­ters of the search war­rants. Rec­og­niz­ing elec­tronic de­vices present unique is­sues, prior ap­pel­late courts said that does not mean the de­vices can­not be seized, she said. Au­thor­i­ties may need to seek an ad­di­tional search war­rant to re­view con­tent spe­cific to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, how­ever.

Elo likened the sit­u­a­tion to po­lice search­ing a ve­hi­cle and find­ing locked lug­gage. Po­lice can­not search the lug­gage un­less they get an ad­di­tional war­rant. The seizure of the ve­hi­cle would still be le­gal, how­ever.

In this case, Elo said she ad­vised the county that its en­tire email server was seized be­cause emails were not sep­a­rated by depart­ment. She said the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s foren­sic unit iso­lated the emails the of­fice wishes to view from cer­tain peo­ple. Those peo­ple are not iden­ti­fied in the court doc­u­ments. No other emails will be searched, she said. Con­tact the writer: tbesecker@timessham­; 570-348-9137; @tmbeseck­erTT on Twit­ter

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