Authorities seize computers after online threats to judges

(TNS) — In a case affecting free speech, authorities seized computers and other equipment from the home of a Virginia man suspected by multiple law enforcement agencies of involvement in years of alleged hateful Internet messages targeting Connecticut judges.

At dawn Thursday, at the request of Connecticut state police detectives, the Virginia State Police issued a search warrant on Paul Boyne’s suburban Washington, DC home. The warrant, signed by a Virginia judge, authorized a search for evidence of threatening or harassing electronic communications, according to the Connecticut and Boyne authorities.

The search of Boyne’s home comes at a time when law enforcement, the state judiciary and anti-hate groups like the Anti-Defamation League of Connecticut have been concerned about anonymous, anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic internet decrees, many of which appear to be written to incite to violence against judges in the state family court system handling contentious and sometimes ruinously expensive divorces.

In some cases, the state’s judicial department has increased security as a result of perceived Internet threats.

The warrant is sealed, along with a supporting affidavit from two Connecticut detectives describing evidence they believe supports a basis for suspecting Boyne was allegedly involved in ongoing threatening Internet communications.

An earlier federal warrant that formed the basis for a similar search of Boyne’s home in 2017 has been unsealed. That search was part of an investigation by the FBI and the Connecticut state police into alleged cyberstalking and interstate threats. Files in federal courts in Connecticut and Virginia show that the FBI obtained data from companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter that linked Boyne’s home and computer addresses to fake social media and email accounts that authorities say were used to harass people. judges.

According to unsealed federal files, the FBI obtained records of, among other things, email exchanges between Boyne and Edward Taupier of Cromwell, who was convicted and jailed in 2015 for threatening to shoot a judge involved in his divorce. An email written by Taupier contained information about the judge’s house, the distance from her bedroom to a nearby cemetery and ammunition that could be used to shoot her, according to testimonies at his trial.

According to the affidavit of the federal warrant, a 2016 Twitter post that the FBI said was linked to Boyne’s home address asked in all caps whether the judge chosen by Taupier was “in your life?” and answered the question, also in capital letters, with “keep calm and reload. goal. shoot again.”

More recently, law enforcement has become concerned about an anonymous internet blog that attacks judges with despicable and abusive posts. It also published a photo of a judge in what appears to be a weapons site. Another post contains a photo of a judge next to an enlarged bullet. Still other posts include photos of the children of an elected official and the wives of judges and political figures.

Supreme Court Justice Gerard Adelman, a frequent target of the blog, referred to it in a decision he wrote about an exceptionally contentious divorce. Around the time Adelman was writing the decision, one of the attorneys who appeared before him was suspended for making alleged anti-Semitic claims similar to those posted on the blog. Among the allegations: A corrupt conspiracy of judges and lawyers sends lucrative legal work.

“Produced by an unnamed person, this blog is full of anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist rants of the worst kind,” Adelman wrote in the court document. “It is based on the belief that the entire family court and bar in Connecticut and other states is controlled by a mysterious Jewish cabal to steal children from loving parents and give them to rapists and pedophiles.”

State police and law enforcement declined to comment on the latest search of Boyne’s home. But a senior state police commander last week, in response to a question about the search, said: “We have a number of investigations underway on the subject.”

Boyne acknowledged the search, but said little more in phone calls last week. He delivered the newspaper what he said in an email, half a dozen motions he filed in the court of Fairfax County, Virginia, challenging the search warrant, demanding the return of two computers and a telephone, and accusing authorities of misconduct.

The federal investigation into the 2017 search lasted more than a year, but ended without arrest. The concerned FBI and federal prosecutors will not discuss the case, but others have theorized that there may have been a conclusion that the Internet communications it exposed were protected by First Amendment guarantees.

People involved in last week’s search said legislation passed last year to improve state laws against hate crime could give law enforcement more leverage in fighting cyber harassment. The arrest warrant issued last week at Boyne’s residence authorized state police to search for evidence of the crimes of intimidation based on bigotry or bias, threatening and inciting injury to persons or property — all crimes covered by the law. of last year applies.

Additional crimes could be charged, including under another 2021 law that criminalizes doxing — the posting of private or identifying information about specific people on the internet with malicious intent, an official involved in the investigation said.

The latest search warrant was signed by a Virginia judge and was executed by the Virginia State Police because Connecticut law enforcement in other states does not have the authority to do so. Two Connecticut detectives attended and the seized electronic equipment was transported to Connecticut where it will be examined, officials said.

Should Boyne travel to Connecticut, he faces arrest on a completely different charge. During Boyne’s divorce in Connecticut courts, he was charged with breach of peace in 2013, according to an affidavit from law enforcement, for raising his voice and “threateningly” brandished a leather bag at a lawyer who called him. represented in a child alimony and custody hearing in the family court. He left the state before the charges were tried.

© 2022 Hartford Courant. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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