Well, partially dispelling.
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.
Kimberlin supporter OccupyRebellion is thrilled:
This post is based on a couple of first-hand accounts from witnesses who don’t want to be named. I have not had a chance to read transcripts, listen to court audio, review minute orders, or see any other similar material (besides two docket entries shown below) that would definitively establish precisely what happened. But I am reasonably confident of the following:
- Aaron was not arrested for second degree assault, contrary to some false reports floating around. The rumor apparently started because the deputy who arrested him was familiar with the incident in which Aaron grabbed Kimberlin’s iPad when Kimberlin was trying to take a picture of him. Apparently the deputy believed that he was arresting Aaron for that alleged assault. But Aaron was actually booked for violating a peace order.
- It does not appear that Aaron was held in contempt for his behavior in court today. Aaron may have irritated the judge by interrupting Kimberlin and the judge repeatedly (a good reason why you don’t represent yourself in court; you are too emotionally involved). But as you’ll hear below, it sounds like the judge explicitly disregarded applicable Supreme Court precedent, saying he didn’t care about it.
- As best as I can tell, the arrest occurred because Brett Kimberlin got a warrant from a judge two days ago, for a criminal charge of violation of a peace order.
I am not an expert on Maryland criminal law, but from talking to people about this, it appears (stunning as it sounds) that they have a procedure there in Maryland whereby any citizen can go to a judge and swear out a complaint against another citizen for a crime. If the judge makes a finding of probable cause — and it appears that they rubber-stamp these things, in my opinion — the warrant issues, without any prosecutorial oversight. Only at some point in the future does the State’s Attorney decide whether the charges are appropriate.
(As an aside, this is my understanding of what happened when Aaron was facing second degree assault charges several weeks ago. As best as I can understand the process, the case was never “filed” by the State’s Attorney. They dismissed it after a video showed Kimberlin had lied under oath about several aspects of the incident. But the charges had lingered on for weeks before they did.)
That appears to be what happened here. Apparently Kimberlin went to court and obtained a “peace order” on May 19, 2012 — two days after Aaron wrote his lengthy post about Kimberlin’s extensive harassment of Aaron:
The “interim” order became a “temporary” order on May 22, 2012, as you can see from the above docket entry — and became “final” today. When Aaron refused to stop blogging about Kimberlin, Kimberlin went to court this weekend, on Sunday, and convinced a judge on Sunday to issue a warrant for Walker’s arrest. The charge: violating the peace order.
I interpret “WARI” in the above screenshot as “Warrant Issued” and “WARS” as “Warrant Served” — which happened today, according to the same screenshot.
So Aaron was arrested for the criminal charge that Brett Kimberlin swore out against him on Sunday. That charge was violating the temporary restraining order, which today was extended to November 2012. Meaning that, under the judge’s unconstitutional view of the law, Aaron is not allowed to blog about Brett Kimberlin until November. (There is no way that order will last; trust me.)
Eugene Volokh quotes the illiterate order of the judge today:
That there is clear and convincing evidence that within 30 days before the filing of the Petition, [Walker] committed the following act(s):
Placed [Kimberlin] in fear of imminent serious bodily harm: COUNTLESS NUMBER OF BLOGS EITHER THREATENING DEATH [sic]
From what I know of the hearing, if Kimberlin produced evidence of these countless blogs (and I doubt he did), it was quite clear that none of the alleged countless blogs were written Aaron. In essence, Aaron was blamed for the reaction of people to his posts.
Again, as best as I can tell based on the information I have, Aaron was arrested for blogging.
As Glenn Reynolds says:
If I read this correctly, Aaron Walker is in trouble because Kimberlin claims that his blogging has somehow led to other people making death threats. That doesn’t seem to pass the First Amendment smell test. Only if Walker were inciting those threats in a way that passed Brandenburg scrutiny would that work, and I don’t believe that’s the case at all. At any rate, under this approach George Zimmerman ought to be able to jail any number of journalists. . . .
I am told that Aaron raised the Brandenburg case (that’s U.S. Supreme Court precedent on incitement, folks) and the judge said he didn’t care about Brandenburg.
That’s what I’m told.
So Brett Kimberlin, knowing that Aaron was coming to court to defend against a civil “peace order,” lay in ambush with a criminal charge, so that Aaron would be arrested.
One wonders if this is his 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:
UPDATE: David Hogberg has an excellent post up which appears entirely consistent with this post. He was a witness to today’s hearing. In addition to confirming the presence of “Kimberlin and his associate Neal Rauhauser” at the hearing, Hogberg writes:
A few thoughts: First, never represent yourself. Walker clearly needed an attorney.
Second, it seems that Vaughey doesn’t understand how the Internet works. I or anyone else can write a blog post about “Person A” and urge others to write about it. But I have no control over whether other people do that. And I certainly have no control over whether someone sends a threatening email or tweet to Person A after reading my blog post. Surely, the people who send threatening emails and such should face consequences. But as long as I do not write something along the lines of “send Person A a nasty email,” I’m not in anyway at fault. And looking over Aaron Walker’s blog, it’s clear he never told anyone to do such a thing to Kimberlin.
But, according to Vaughey’s reasoning, I would be at fault. If that’s indeed the case, well, you can probably figure out that the First Amendment has just been gutted.
Much more at the link. I think between Hogberg’s post and mine, you get a pretty good picture of what went down today. And it is truly the gutting of our free speech rights. It cannot be allowed to stand.
UPDATE x2: There is a legal defense fund for Aaron, Stacy McCain, and others financially harmed by Kimberlin’s stalkerish ways. Contribute here.