Subpoena seeks to unmask anonymous bloggers

Thursday, August 14, 2008

McALESTER, Okla. — Police detectives seeking the identities of bloggers who
criticized McAlester officials on an online message board delivered a subpoena
to the site's operator, who says he won't cooperate with investigators.

Two police detectives delivered the subpoena on Aug. 12 to Harold King, who
operates the Web site McAlester Watercooler. The
subpoena orders King to provide details by Aug. 16 on 35 bloggers posting under
pseudonyms on King's site.

“A list of 35 names is a witch hunt,” King told the McAlester

King said he researched posts under those pseudonyms and found one common
denominator: All had written critically about District Attorney Jim Miller.

Miller said by telephone: “I can't comment on any investigation, and whether
one's going on or not.”

An open-government advocate says he's concerned the subpoena could have “a
chilling effect.”

“It just smacks of trying to chill criticism,” said Joey Senat, past
president of FOI Oklahoma Inc. and associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma
State University.

“We have a right to speak anonymously, especially about political matters,”
Senat said.

The subpoena is the most recent of King's troubles related to his Web site.
The site focuses on McAlester politics — particularly matters related to former
state Sen. Gene Stipe.

In December 2005, King filed a police report claiming Stipe assaulted him.
Stipe and his brother Francis filed a stalking complaint, accusing King of
harassing them. Gene Stipe also obtained a protective order against King and
accused him of libel.

Last weekend, King filed a police report accusing Francis Stipe's son, Wayne,
of punching him in the face at a local grocery store.

Miller wouldn't say whether he planned to file assault charges.

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