Feeds

Boston dorm computer raid ruled illegal

So much for the hoax email argument

Boost IT visibility and business value

A justice from Massachusetts's highest court has ordered police to return a laptop and other gear seized from a Boston student's dorm room after rejecting prosecutors' arguments that hoax emails he was suspected of sending might be illegal under a computer crime statute.

The decision, issued Thursday by Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court Margot Botsford, also ordered police to immediately cease any ongoing search of the seized property. Police confiscated 23 items, including three laptops, two iPods, two cellular phones, a digital camera, and a variety of data-storage devices, during a March 30 raid on the dorm room of Boston College (BC) student Riccardo Calixte.

"No one should be subjected to a search like this based on such flimsy theories and evidence," said Matt Zimmerman, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which helped represent the computer science student. As a result of the seizure, Calixte was forced to complete much of the final month of the semester without a computer, phone or network access, the EFF said.

Calixte came under suspicion following a "domestic dispute" when a roommate told a police detective he had observed Calixte commit two computer crimes. When police requested a warrant to search the dorm room, much of the factual basis provided that a crime had been committed were two emails sent in early March that falsely claimed the roommate was participating on a gay dating website. At least one them was suspected to have been sent by Calixte.

In arguing the search warrant was properly issued, prosecutors argued the hoax emails might violate a Massachusetts statute barring the "unauthorized access" to a computer. Justice Botsford rejected that theory.

"The commonwealth's claim that such an email might be unlawful because it violates a hypothetical internet use policy maintained by BC both goes well beyond the reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the affidavit, and would dramatically expand the appropriate scope of" the statute, she wrote.

She went on to find there was no probable cause to support that Calixte illegally downloaded more than 200 movies and music files and accessed the BC grading system used by professors to change grades.

A PDF of the decision is here. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.