It’s become clear who Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett thinks is behind the Twitter account that he subpoenaed information on last week.
As we reported Wednesday, the AG and Republican nominee for governor last week subpoenaed Twitter, demanding information about two accounts, both of which contained Tweets that were critical of Corbett, and linked to a blog with a similar anti-Corbett message. He didn’t offer details about the purpose of the subpoenas.
But the truth has started to emerge. Corbett’s office has been conducting a series of prosecutions in what’s known in the state as the “Bonus-Gate” scandal, in which state employees who worked on political campaigns allegedly received bonuses, paid for with public funds.
Brett Cott, a former Democratic legislative aide, was convicted earlier this year, and his sentencing is scheduled for today. On Tuesday, Corbett’s team argued in court that Cott should receive a stiffer sentence, in part because, he “has used an anonymous blog to deflect blame and malign the prosecution,” as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette put it. Yesterday, a Corbett aide said the reason for the subpoena will become clear at the sentencing hearing today. And sources have told a Pittsburgh TV station that Corbett believes Cott is behind the blog.
Indeed, as far back as last September, Corbett had said in response to critics of his Bonus-Gate probe: “We read blogs, we know what’s out there, we know people like Brett Cott are on the blogs all day making stuff up, you know.”
So the subpoena appears to be intended to advance the state’s argument that Cott has been criticizing the prosecution and therefore should receive a harsher sentence. Not that that should ease concerns about an over-reach by Corbett. As the ACLU of Pennsylvania put it: “Using the grand-jury process to get evidence in the aid of sentencing is an abuse of the system. Grand juries are to investigate potential crimes, not aid in prosecution.”
The person behind the blog, who uses the name Signor Ferrari, won’t say whether he is Cott. “We have the right to criticize public officials anonymously no matter who we are,” he told the TV station.”
Twitter has not yet definitively said whether it will comply with the subpoena.