Bid denied to identify Web postings

By Times Staff Writer
Published January 4, 2006

TAMPA - A Hillsborough circuit judge again has denied efforts by the Sheriff's Office to learn the identities of people who posted unsavory remarks on a law enforcement Web site message board.

Circuit Judge Marva L. Crenshaw concluded that the anonymous postings on the Web site LeoAffairs.com largely involved opinions that aren't likely to be confused as anything else.

And while the Sheriff's Office might have a legitimate interest in identifying possible employees posting remarks disruptive to the agency's work, the court already has ordered those comments removed.

The Sheriff's Office previously sought the identities of people who posted comments related to the Sabrina Aisenberg missing baby case. Judge William Levens denied that request on grounds the First Amendment free speech protections trumped the sheriff's right to gather information for a lawsuit.