Search warrant issued against Mattaponi Council records to be dropped, prosecutor says

A search warrant obtained in August by authorities in King William County for files by online giant Google concerning secret recordings of closed meetings of the Mattaponi Tribal Council will be voluntarily quashed, an official said on Tuesday.

“We are not suing him,” King William Commonwealth lawyer Matt Kite said.

The warrant, issued by a James City County magistrate and served at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., Sought to identify who provided clandestine audio recordings of three tribal council meetings late last winter in Mattaponi Voice, a YouTube channel that serves as an independent online publication serving the Mattaponi people who made the recordings public. Google owns YouTube.

The Voice was unaware that the source of the tapes of tribal council meetings on February 6, February 20 and March 20th this year was the subject of a search warrant until November, more than two months after the warrant was issued, said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, lawyer and former executive director of Virginia ACLU representing Voice pro bono.

The effort by King William’s Sheriff’s Office to collate a wide range of data on how the secret tapes were made public comes amid mounting tensions within the tribe over the unelected and secret governance of the Sovereign Reserve of Mattaponi.

Mattaponi voice search mandate

Opponents of the current male-only governing body headed by the tribal chief say no elections for council seats have been held since the 1970s. Information about council meetings is not being made public and women have never been allowed to vote on tribal leadership or political issues, they say.

After a group of protesters filed a petition at Chief Mark Custalow’s home on the reservation, informing him that they would no longer recognize the authority of the council and hold an open election, Custalow filed misdemeanor charges. crowd intrusion and assault against 13 people. Their cases are due to be tried on December 16 in King William’s General District Court.

In an affidavit filed in support of the search warrant, a detective for King William’s sheriff whose name has been redacted from the document says the tapes were made “without the permission of the Mattaponi Tribal Council.” The tapes, the affidavit attests, included “confidential information such as the names of tribal members, plans and financial information regarding the Mattaponi tribe, which is a sovereign government.”

Because Virginia is a “one-party state,” anyone who is party to a conversation or present at a meeting can record it without the consent of others, Gastañaga said. The affidavit raises the possibility that the recording was made illegally by an absent person – a violation of state wiretapping law.

“All tribal members present (at the Council meeting) on ​​the dates indicated… have refused to record or given permission to record. Four tapes were found posted on social media sites without any kind of tribal council clearance, ”the affidavit states.

YouTube Voice channel posted two versions of the March 20 meeting.

Gastañaga said there was no evidence that an absent third party obtained the recording. She also stated that The Voice could publish the recordings as long as it did not obtain them illegally, whether the source of the recordings obtained them by legal or illegal means under United States Supreme Court precedents in its Pentagon papers and Bartnicki vs. Vopper decisions among others.

Neither Gastanaga nor Kite knew how long it would take to quash the search warrant or the specific process for it on Tuesday.


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