Maryland judge confused about Free Speech and the marketplace of ideas

I bet all of you all remember “Everyone Blog About Bret Kimberlin Day.”  After all, it took place less than a week ago.  For those unfamiliar with it, this is the way it worked:

Conservatives bloggers learned that Brett Kimberlin, using both the legal system and a bit of self-help, was harassing those bloggers who brought attention to a past that included planting bombs (one of which so terribly maimed a man that the man later committed suicide), drug dealing, and imprisonment.  They also brought to light a series of current unsavory associations with far-Left and some not-so-far Left organizations.

In order to expand the scope of available targets for Kimberlin, thereby substantially reducing his ability to harass any one blogger, conservative bloggers engaged in a blog burst.  Most of them did precisely what the original bloggers involved had done:  they relayed, in straightforward fashion, accurate facts about Kimberlin’s life and associations.  Although I have no specific information on the subject, it appears that some of these bloggers may have gotten carried away and made threats.  Credible threats constitute an illegal activity.

In the normal world, the law goes after the person making the threats.  In Maryland, though, with Kimberlin leading the charge, and Judge Cornelius Vaughey (Ret.) wielding the pen, the person who asked others to tell the truth is imprisoned.  I know this sounds unbelievable in a country ostensibly bounded by the First Amendment’s freedom of speech but, until any contrary information is released, this seems to be exactly what happened to blogger Aaron Worthing, who was one of the first to spread the facts about Kimberlin.  Patterico explains:

Aaron Walker (aka Worthing) was arrested today in a Maryland courtroom. Several days ago, convicted bomber and perjurer Brett Kimberlin had obtained a “peace order” against Walker, and today Walker was arrested for violating the order. My information is that the judge claimed that Walker violated the provision against electronic communication with Kimberlin, because Aaron blogged about Kimberlin — thus “inciting” others to contact Kimberlin.

In other words, as best as I can tell, Aaron Walker was arrested today in the United States of America for blogging about a public figure.

Go to the Patterico link, please, to get the whole picture.

What happened to Aaron Walker/Worthing isn’t just one bad thing happening to one person.  It is a test case.  Patterico again:

One wonders if this is his [Kimberlin’s] new strategy: he sues you for your blogging, and simultaneously obtains a peace order saying you harassed him. If you blog about him again, he gets a judge to rubber stamp a criminal complaint for violating the peace order.

Now, if you don’t show up for the lawsuit, he gets a default judgment. If you do, you get arrested for blogging.

Catch 22. And a nice scam if you can get judges gullible enough to go along with it.

This is, I had thought, the United States of America. I thought we had freedom of speech here.

It will take a few days to nail down with precision what happened. But if the account I have given here turns out to be correct — if the basis of the arrest today was that Aaron incited others by blogging about a public figure — I want all lovers of the First Amendment to stand tall and ride to Aaron’s defense.

Because they’re not done. They claim they’re just getting started:

Incidentally, I suspect that Vaughey was just a patsy.  He’s a retired judge, whose tenure on the Court really predated the internet era.  It’s probably that he really did not understand the dynamics here.

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    “It’s probably that he really did not understand the dynamics here”

    You’re too kind. It’s more likely that he was pulled from retirement for that very reason. Is there a shortage of active judges in Maryland, because there’s certainly no shortage from the LEFT that would like to shut down conservative blogging.

  • poliwog

    From what I can tell, and I’m trying to follow this at least semi-closely, it wasn’t even that the other bloggers got carried away.  Instead there were comments to the posts (most of the “come try that with *me* variety) that someone searching for excuses (which Kimberlin certainly is) could use to fool a judge who clearly made the correct decision when he retired seven years ago.

    Also, blogging is indeed what got Walker arrested.  Kimberlin had set up a google alert to ping him if Walker wrote about him and then claimed that the ping (which Walker knew nothing about) counted as “contact” and broke the peace order.  In the post you quoted, Patterico has a link to an article from (Investors Daily?)  which gives a good account of what happened.

    I was interested that Kimberlin managed to get an arrest warrent on a holiday Sunday.  Is that a common thing in your experience?

    Why can’t I get paragraphs?!?

  • poliwog

    Of course.  Book, I love your blog but I *hate* your preview function.

  • michal

    people over say, 65, if they are not news addicts, often don’t know what a blog is, or how twitter works or pinging from google. They don’t have any idea that an entire alternative stream of reliable information is available.
    My mom who is 75 and has and uses a mac air book, didn’t understand what a blog is until last week.  My dad still relies on the print NYTimes for all his news.  There are people living in caves out there.  They don’t think they need to bother with all those “other” sources, “because the MSM will cover what is important.”  My dad is an attorney and not all a dumby but he’s not interested in some non-print edition of the news.  
    also people read and watch what they already want to hear.
    How many of us here actually hold our noses and read everyday some Huff post, CNN or NYT to keep current what is out there in the left wing news?  I’m also hunkered down in my bunker, like my dad but with a different news stream going.
    anyone read this at PJMedia?  I think it speaks to the issues and makes it all that harder to crack the shell of the general public and shine some light and fresh air on things.
    @poliwog  I was wondering the same thing!  How do you get a judge to sign a warrant for that type of thing on a Sunday?  Who is pulling things together for this creep behind the scenes??
    (i apologize for my bad grammar. I can’t ever figure out tenses)

  • jj

    “In a normal world, the law goes after the person making the threats.”  Sad to say, then I’m compelled to conclude that none of us have ever lived in a “normal” world.  In our world the law goes in whatever direction anybody wants to pay lawyers to go – and it seems there’s an endless supply of these paladins of ethical behavior who’ve been through law school to take the dough and go.  Wherever it may be.  On behalf of whatever offal’s got the checkbook.  And to hell with your Constitution, free speech, etc., etc.  Any bastard with a positive balance in the bank can find a few, no problems with right or wrong, moral or immoral, fair or unfair, Constitutional or obviously not.  No problem , send me a check, I’ll enter an appearance – no matter what kind of scum I know you are.
    My only question about Vaughey is how, with a brain like that, he missed being nominated for the supreme court.  You’re defending him on the basis that he’s senile – oddly enough that doesn’t excuse it for me.  If he is, then what the hell is he doing within 100 yards of the courthouse, let alone the bench?  Though, come to think of it, given the way far too many lawyers behave, a senile judge probably acts as a balance.  I remember in court one day in Boston many years ago, another dotard – his name was Elijah, not unlike Cornelius; both of them names from a prior era –  showed up behind the bench one afternoon shoeless and without his pants.  Back in chambers, as it turned out, he’d lost control of his insides and defecated all over himself, his pants, the floor, his shoes, etc.  But by God, that Puritan sense of duty prevailed, and there he was: on time, and ready.  He sat for another ten years beyond that – in diapers.  So hell, compared with that, Vaughey sounds like a jurisprudential superstar!
    What a system this is.