What You Think Is Private Actually Isn't
When you enter into a courthouse you expect everything to be handled appropriately and more importantly for court personnel to pay close attention to detail so that no mistakes are made, especially when it pertains to privacy and safety issues. Last week, NSM released an article titled “Kenosha County Courthouse Has A Leak” https://neverstopvoices.com/blogs/news/kenosha-county-courthouse-has-a-leak At the time of writing the article everything surrounding my filing of a civil lawsuit and the timeframe upon which I was emailed regarding this lawsuit all seemed very suspicious especially because minutes after filing I was questioned about the lawsuit when nobody knew I was in Kenosha, in the courthouse or even filed anything.
When it comes to my physical safety, it’s something I don’t take lightly.
On March 17th 2020, I filed a Writ of Mandamus against the Kenosha Police Department for refusing to hand over 13 public records requests. After working an internal investigation it was found that I walked out of RM204 at 12:07pm. At 12:30pm, Kevin Mathewson sent in a digital request for the documents. He wasn’t sent them because they weren’t officially uploaded yet. The filing was concluded at 12:41pm into the courthouse system. At 12:43pm I received the random email asking me about the filing. The email came from a “Nate Griel” which I assumed was a fake name and throughout the email the tactics and harassment being used had Kevin Mathewson’s smell all over it. Knowing now that 23 minutes after I left this room, he was sending in a request for it, it still left to wonder how did he find this out so quickly? At 3:14pm the documents were scanned into the system which would now make it publicly available. Anything prior to this would not be open to the public yet, other than the fact it was filed which could be viewed on CCAP. At 5:25pm another email came through alleging to have read through my document and mentioned an additional document I filed to seal my address. What was concerning is that there are addresses listed in my documents that clearly I don’t want people to know, hence the reason I filed a petition to seal it. As of 3/24/21 there has been no update to approve or deny sealing my address, yet this unknown person (most likely Mathewson) somehow has read through all the documents filed. Risking my own personal safety with this next portion, on March 22nd, I opened up CCAP and low and behold an address is listed. Here’s the problem, the address listed is not the address listed on the mandamus, it’s an address listed on an open records request where I intended to have the records mailed to. If sealing my address hasn’t been approved or denied yet and this is not even the address listed on the actual petition why is this address now publicly available to everyone? Here’s where the “attention to detail so that no mistakes are made” part comes into play. The clerk for the original judge scheduled to hear the case entered notes into the system and included the first address she saw, not paying attention to the fact this wasn’t the address noted on the petition or the fact no decision was made to seal an address. I promptly called the courthouse to question why an address was publicly listed and it was found to have been a mistake. I placed my hand to my temples and took a deep breath trying to not completely lose my temper at such a huge mistake to have been made. The address has since been removed again.
Let me note two huge privacy issues here. The minute documents are officially scanned into the system they are now of public record and open to requests by anyone, even before a decision is made when it comes to sealing private information. So now whoever is notified has an original document with nothing redacted from it. This leaves serious room for concern when it pertains to juveniles, domestic violence victims, stalking victims, protestors, witnesses, and other high profile cases where information is imperative it’s hidden from the public. The second is the lack of attention being paid by courthouse personnel when it comes to entering case summary into the system, where information can be put out publicly before it’s supposed to.
Through open records requests, I obtained video surveillance of the courthouse and seen on video is Kevin Mathewson walking into the courthouse at 2:45pm. https://youtu.be/jcKqLFbqxhg
That’s 2hrs and 38min after I walked out. In surveillance video inside of RM204, the video Mathewson sits down at a public computer and proceeds to take pictures via his phone which I found out today is improper for him to do. https://youtu.be/I0L7KD2MAX4
But it’s Mathewson, nobody expects him to do anything the right way. He snaps several more pictures and casually walks out.
All of the rapid timing surrounding this entire situation caused a week long investigation. Through further investigation with the Clerk of Circuit Courts, Rebecca Metoska Metink inside of the courthouse, it doesn’t appear on its face that any staff personally notified Mathewson of the filing but I was informed of another way the public can be notified of court related content very rapidly. On the Kenosha County Courthouse official site you can find instructions for RSS Feeders. What is RSS? I asked the same question. (RSS) stands for "Really Simple Syndication" or "Rich Site Summary". In its simplest of explanation it allows users to obtain information rapidly without having to continuously visit a specific website. Here’s how it works. Most web browsers have RSS Feeder capability though they aren’t very specific. You can download a variety of them from different providers. Once you have them, you enter in a URL and set up your filters, keywords and other specs and the RSS Feeder is constantly checking for updates faster than you could manually. Anytime there are changes or updates to a specific URL the user immediately gets notified via email or text. RSS Feeders can virtually be applied to anything, blogs, news, weather, government databases, social media and much more.
If you’ve used CCAP before, you know you can’t print off courthouse documents while sitting in your underwear from the living room couch. The investigation still hasn’t turned up how Mathewson received a copy of the documents as nothing was handed to him while he was in RM204 and nothing is showing up in the logs when he requested a digital copy at 12:30pm that anything had actually been sent to him. While I’m not entirely convinced there isn’t personnel inside of the courthouse leaking information to him considering Mathewson has his spies everywhere and there is no way to prove if Mathewson has an RSS Feeder installed, it does show and highlight how what we think is private and safe actually isn’t.
There are loop holes with our privacy and once again technology being misused by those with nefarious intent could one day lead to someone getting seriously injured or killed.
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