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.