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Thursday, January 20, 2011

City police speak on hoax investigation

Posted By on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 3:06 PM

Intrepid reporter Chris Young has been trying to get to the bottom of last night's police seizure of computer equipment at Dreaming Ant in Bloomfield. Here's what he's learned so far:

Pittsburgh police detective James Glick confirms that officers seized a computer and wireless router  from Dreaming Ant last night at around 5:30 p.m. They did so after they tracing back a fake FOP release to the Dreaming Ant IP address. 

Contrary to an assertion made to City Paper earlier today, Glick says that police took nothing from Crazy Mocha, the coffee shop that shares space on Liberty Avenue with Dreaming Ant. And he stressed that Dreaming Ant owner Dean Brandt "has been cooperative. We don't believe he's a suspect."

The department's Computer Crimes Unit is analyzing the computer and router data, and Glick says that once the work is done, the equipment will be returned to the video store as soon as possible.

Glick says multiple charges will likely be filed, including trademark counterfeiting and identity theft. (The release, as we first noted last week, includes a distorted version of the FOP logo. And it also names two FOP officials, though it doesn't ascribe any quotes or other information directly to them.) Other charges are being looked into, Glick says, though he could not provide specifics. 

But First Amendment concerns seem almost certain to arise in the matter. For one thing, generally speaking, trademark counterfeiting and identity theft involve the attempt to cheat people out of money. It is hard to see how that could have been the intention of the fake FOP release.

Mike Healey, a local attorney who often works on civil-rights matters, is not involved in the case (at least not yet). But when City Paper spoke to him earlier today, he professed surprise at the investigation. He couldn't see how the FOP stunt was any different from what The Onion does on a daily basis: The satirical online publication often puts words into the mouths of public figures. And yet, Healy notes, "They have never been charged with a crime." 

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