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Search Warrants Issued in Puerto Rican Texting Scandal

Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin, front atop truck, participates with other local celebrities in a protest demanding the resignation of governor Ricardo Rossello in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, July 22, 2019.

A judge in Puerto Rico has issued search warrants for the phones of the U.S. territory's governor, Ricardo Rossello, and 11 of his political allies in connection with a texting scandal.

The search warrants were issued for individuals who had not yet given up their phones as part of an investigation, a spokesperson for Puerto Rico's Department of Justice told the Associated Press.

The warrants were issued a day after protestors mobilized for a 10th straight day against embattled Governor Ricardo Rossello. Demonstrations ended late Monday with police using tear gas to disperse demonstrators who had gathered near the governor's mansion in the capital, San Juan.

A massive crowd estimated at 500,000 people, including pop singer Ricky Martin and other Puerto Rican-born entertainers, filled the streets of the earlier Monday demanding Rossello quit.

The public fury erupted nearly two weeks ago when the island's Center for Investigative Journalism published nearly 900 pages of online group chats between Governor Rossello and several top aides and associates that included profane messages laced with contempt for victims of 2017's Hurricane Maria, as well as misogynistic and homophobic slurs against Rossello's political opponents.

The publication of the chats unleashed long-simmering anger among Puerto Ricans who were worn down by years of public corruption and mismanagement that left the U.S. territory under the control of a congressionally-mandated oversight board to guide it out of a multi-billion-dollar debt crisis.

Rossello stepped down as leader of the New Progressive Party during a televised address Sunday and said he would not seek re-election in 2020.

U.S. President Donald Trump slammed Rossello Monday for his "totally grossly incompetent leadership" of Puerto Rico. Trump clashed with Rossello and other Puerto Rican officials over the administration's response to Hurricane Maria, which killed 3,000 people and left the island without power for months.