From his blog: http://squeedlyspooch.com/blog/archives/000072.html
January 15, 2004
The whole surreal story
So at 6:30am on January 14th, I woke up to the doorbell buzzing. Not a short lived buzz. Someone had their thumb pressing the button and holding it there. “****ing drunkard” I thought, and rolled over, intent on ignoring it. It then started a rythmic buzz buzz buzz buzz, over and over again. After about 5 minutes battling to get back to sleep, I gave up and got up. Put my pants on, grabbed my sweatshirt, and stumbled off toward the door.
As I walked down the steps I heard them talking to the nextdoor neighbor, asking him where the landlord lived. I reach the door just as the neighbor’s door closes. I compose myself to deal with whatever is behind the door, and open it.
Immediately there’s a flashlight in my eyes. “Are you Chris Toshok?” “Uh, yes” “Mr. Toshok, we’re with the FBI. We have a warrant to search the premises.” I looked down out of the glare of the flashlight and saw the FBI badge of the long haired blonde woman standing in front of me. I also saw two people behind her, bodies turned sideways so as to present less of a target. Guns drawn? It was too hard to tell really with the glare of the flashlight, but I’m assuming yes.
I mumbled something about turning on the light so I could see the warrant (pages 1 2 3 4 5)they’d thrust into my hands and turned and groped on the wall for the switch. They all tensed. The light came on, and I looked over the warrant for a second.
“Please come out here Mr. Toshok,” and a hand on my arm pulling me onto the porch. Once I was out on the porch several agents started up the stairs. I said that my roommate was still asleep in bed. They asked his name, I said “Peter”. They continued up the steps, yelling his name. “Peter, this is the FBI.” “PETER” “PETER, are you awake? this is the FBI”
I didn’t watch it happen but apparently Peter awoke, naked, to a doorway full of FBI agents with guns out, yelling at him to get up. He asked if he could get some clothes on. They said yes. He asked if they could turn on the light so he could see. So Peter got to get dressed under the watchful gaze of government employees. Must have been fun.
They took Peter to the back of the house, and took me back upstairs to the front of the house, and proceeded to start going through everything in my room and the office.
I was questioned by the FBI agent in charge and a Secret Service agent at length about the Hungry Programmers, people I used to live with, whether particular people had the capacity/knowledge to do what they were investigating, etc. During the questioning she says “Now we’re going to take all your computers.” She sees the look on my face and says “Yeah, this is going to be hard for you.” I said “uh, when will I get them back?” She said it depends, that they’d try to have them all back as soon as possible, but it depends on if they find anything suspicious on them. If they found contraband (kiddie porn, talk of drugs, or stuff they were actually looking for), that particular computer would never be coming home.
After the questioning I basically sat in the front room on a folded futon mattress, with at least one agent with me at all times. Sometimes two. At one point I said I really needed to brush my teeth and the SS agent assigned to me at the time walked with me back to the bathroom and stood behind me watching me in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. On my way back down the hall I looked into my room and saw 3 FBI agents rifling through my belongings. One looking at the condoms and stickers in my nightstand, one going through my underwear/sock drawer, and one looking through my books.
After a lot more sitting in silence in that room, interspersed with tidbits of conversation (an fbi agent asking me about the guitars, talking about the piano lessons in his youth, and how he was kicked in the chest by a horse.) I must say, the SS agents were a lot nicer than the FBI agents. One in particular was pretty cool - we joked a lot about just how absurd the whole thing was… He asked how I was doing, I said I’d had better mornings, to which he responded “well you’ll definitely have one unique experience more than most people.” I definitely have to agree. I know of very few others that have been through something like this. The blonde FBI agent was nice (and annoying) enough to tell me repeatedly that the judge would go easier on me (and they could all go home earlier) if I would just tell them where the stuff was. If I had it, of course. But if I denied having it, they’d really throw the book at me when they found it.
After more waiting, the FBI agent in charge comes into the room and explains that they aren’t actually pressing charges against me, so I’m not being detained. I can leave if I want, or walk around the house, etc. This is a relief. I go grab my shoes and socks (my feet were freezing by this time). After a few more minutes of listening to the bumbling idiots in the next room arguing over how to turn off my machines, I decide a walk might be nice. I say I’m leaving to go walk around, that I’ll be back to look over the list of equipment they’re seizing. I ask if they’ll let me take my cell phone so they can call me if I need to be back, etc… They said no. I wasn’t to take any property off the premises. Luckily, I still had my car keys. I walked over to my car and drove off.
Drove around for a while, then decided I’d stop by Seth’s house and tell him what was going on. Davel answered the door, bleary-eyed. I apologized for waking him up… I said “I would have called, but the FBI wouldn’t let me use my cell phone.” He said “what???”… I handed him the search warrant. He said “ohhh, god, come in.” and walked me up the stairs.
I broke the news to Seth and he looked as shocked as I felt when I opened the door at 6:30. Got on ICB and spread the word that the wolves were circling, and everyone pretty well freaked out.
I hung out with them for a while, then figured I’d better be getting back so I got back in the car and returned home. It was probably around 10am at this point. 3.5 hours into the raid. I got there as agents were walking laps up and down the outside steps, carrying full boxes of my possessions into their van. I was too late to go over the actual stuff they were confiscating. suck. I walked upstairs, and found the long haired blonde agent and the (admittedly very cute) asian evidence photographer still there, finishing up. Taking photos of the rooms in their condition post-raid, writing down which exposures corresponded to which room.
The blonde agent handed me the seizure receipt to look over and sign. It looked ok to me, but I really had no idea at the time that some items they’d taken weren’t on the list.
We joked with the agents some before they left. Asked them for their business cards, which they declined to give us, saying they would likely be plastered all over the web. Wise women. We asked if we could get a picture of them or their badges, which they also denied us. Too bad. Peter walked them to the steps, and I walked into the office to assess the emptiness.
There were a few times in college when the computer labs would be closed during the day, due to a bomb threat or a gas leak or whatever. When this happened all the geeks would wander around outside, eyes squinting in the unaccustomed glare of the mid-day sun, looking like zombies. You could always spot a geek on such a day by the way they walked with a certain slowness in their step. Not a leisure slowness, a dead slowness.
Today was like that for me. I’d lost upwards of 9 machines, and lots of misc equipment besides. Machines that, according to most people familiar with this stuff, I may as well write off as gone regardless of whether or not they ever find anything on them. Thankfully there were many people around that were willing and able to find the humor in such a preposterous day. I’ve been running on laughter all day, unwilling to think about the fact that this all might end with me in court, or even in jail. I mean, I did nothing illegal, how can I end up in jail? Leila forced me to at least acknowledge the gravity of what was going on, but thankfully didn’t force me to dwell on it. I’m hoping I can keep myself laughing about it all until I pass out. The drinking might start rather early tomorrow.
I don’t think the word “surreal” ever described a day better for me.