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Judge to Twitter: Turn over OWS messages

A large gathering of protesters affiliated with the

A large gathering of protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street Movement attend a rally in Union Square on in New York City. (Nov. 17, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

A judge in Manhattan Tuesday threatened financial sanctions for contempt against Twitter if it doesn't turn over the tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protester in a case that has attracted concern from privacy groups.

Acting after an appellate court lifted a stay, State Supreme Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino told a lawyer for Twitter that it would have until Friday to comply with a June 30 order to turn over messages and other data from Malcolm Harris, who is charged with disorderly conduct.

"If you don't, I will take a look at the last two quarterly earning statements," Sciarrino said. "I can't put a corporation in jail."

Prosecutors subpoenaed three months of records from Harris' account. Sciarrino ruled that the material was relevant to countering an anticipated defense that Harris believed that an Oct. 1 march over the Brooklyn Bridge had been approved by police.

He was one of hundreds arrested when police said they ignored warnings to stay on the pedestrian path.

Twitter, with the support of groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has appealed over two issues -- arguing that Harris should have the right to object to the subpoena, and that Sciarrino is allowing prosecutors to go on a fishing expedition.

Harris has filed suit to try to block the release.

Martin Stolar, Harris' attorney, said after the hearing that the judge's order puts Twitter in a bind because the company's view is that complying would violate provisions of federal law, and he objected to prosecutors pressing the issue before an appeals court has ruled.

"I think it's outrageous that the district attorney wants to prohibit Twitter from exercising their rights to appeal," Stolar said.

A spokesman for the district attorney's office declined to comment.

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