By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News
Updated- February 6, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — A federal search warrant, mistakenly posted online, targets Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox.
The 28-page warrant was supposed to be sealed, but was obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat and posted online. The document posted by the Democrat lays out accusations of bribery and conspiracy against City Commissioner Scott Maddox.
According to the search warrant, Maddox accepted tens of thousands of dollars in payments from a company lobbying the city through his former consulting firm Governance Inc., which is run by close business associate, Paige Carter Smith.
The search warrant is seeking records from Maddox's Apple iCloud account.
Apple has fought to protect access of its accounts to the government in the past, including in the case of San Bernardino attacker Syed Farook. The company states on its website, “We believe security shouldn’t come at the expense of individual privacy.”
An Apple spokesperson said he could not comment on the specific warrant regarding Maddox, but according to the company’s website, requests for access in the US must be done by a search warrant and must meet all applicable legal standards for Apple to comply.
The policy reads, in part:
We apply the highest U.S. legal standard, and we require a search warrant for all U.S. requests for content. All international requests for content stored in our data centers in the U.S. must comply with the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Only a small fraction of requests from law enforcement seek content such as email, photos, and other content stored on users’ iCloud accounts. Apple will give prior notice to users whose data is sought by a law enforcement agency or other governmental entity, except where prohibited by law.
Blake Dowling with the Tallahassee technology company AGEIS said it is a balancing act for companies that manage cloud storage to comply with an investigation, while also protecting the rights of its consumers.
He said a good rule of thumb to remember is that anything involving the internet will live on the web forever.
"That exists and is true for texting as well. If you text something there's going to be a record of that somewhere so be wary of what you're texting, what you're sharing and what you're storing. Because your privacy is only as good as that cloud provider dictates it is,” he said.
The US Attorney’s Office, FBI and Clerk of Courts have declined to comment on this specific case.
Attorneys for both Maddox and Carter-Smith have urged residents not rush to judgement, as no one has been charged nor found guilty. However, residents have called the accusations “disappointing,” “disheartening” and “frustrating.”
Some even called this the political norm, relating it the political culture nationwide.
"I'm frustrated and then angry about it. These are elected representatives. Their job is to represent their constituents and do the job that they were put into office to do. And it seems like they're not doing it,” said Marty Jaron, a Tallahassee resident.
At least two city commissioners have urged Maddox to consider resigning.
“I think those are really serious allegations that are made against Scott and Paige and it seems rather thorough and he should consider his next move. Which might be to resign," said Commissioner Gil Ziffer. "This is directly from a document the FBI inadvertently made public.”
"Nobody has been indicted, or found guilty. And so it's up to Commissioner Maddox as to whether or not he should continue to serve, or resign," Commissioner Curtis Richardson said.
"I hope that this is the beginning of the end," Richardson said. "So that we can get back to the business of running the city of Tallahassee without this kind of distraction."
According to Interim City Attorney Cassandra Jackson, any decision to resign is solely up to Maddox.
“Our charter says he serves until his term ends unless something happens to prevent that, in which case there would be a vacancy in office. But, there are no provisions in our charter for the commissioners to remove an elected official,” said Jackson.
There are no indications that Maddox is considering resigning.
His attorney, Stephen Dobson, released the following statement on Monday:
"We believe when the entire story is told, Scott Maddox will be vindicated. Scott has been a good and decent City Commissioner and has always put the interests of Tallahassee first and foremost. I urge everybody not to rush to judgment when only one side of the story is being told--and that is a very slanted and biased version by the FBI."
Attorney Stephen Webster, who represents Paige Carter-Smith, also released a statement:
“The releases of the application for the search warrant is scandalous and has unjustly scarred the reputations of those involved without any semblance of due process. As the agent who drafted the warrant acknowledged, the documents being subpoenaed are necessary to determine whether the Government can “establish and prove [that a crime was committed] or, alternatively, to exuded the innocent from further suspicion.” The improve release of the application not only undermined that goal, it served to heap more unproven scrutiny on the presumptively innocent. Nonetheless, Ms. Carter-Smith has cooperated fully and will continue to conduct herself with respect for the process and all of those involved until she is fully exonerated of any wrongdoing.”
WCTV has tried to get a copy of the search warrant, but has not been able to do so. The Democrat reported it has been re-sealed.
The search warrant posted by the Democrat indicates the FBI investigation into corruption started in 2015, and said undercover agents posed as out of town real estate developers and medical marijuana entrepreneurs.
The document dated February 2 was meant to be sealed. The FBI agent wrote any "premature disclosure may seriously jeopardize" the investigation. It was signed by a federal magistrate in Gainesville.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum provided the following statement on Monday:
"As I have said from day one, any wrongdoing found in City Hall should be uncovered and any individuals involved held accountable. As Tallahasseeans, we are all troubled by what we’ve read, and are hopeful for a just and speedy conclusion to this unfortunate matter."