RS McCain reported the news first:
Aaron Walker, whose complaint against convicted terrorist Brett Kimberlin became a conservative cause célèbre this past week, was reportedly taken into custody today after a court hearing in Rockville, Maryland.
One person who attended the hearing in Montgomery County District Court said that Kimberlin asserted that Walker’s continued blogging represented a violation of a “peace order” Kimberlin had obtained against the Virginia attorney, who says Kimberlin tried to “frame” him for assault earlier this year.
During the course of the hearing — which reportedly lasted about an hour — Judge C.J. Vaughey appeared to become increasingly hostile toward Walker, who was taken into custody when the hearing concluded.
According to reports, the 73 year old judge was woefully ignorant of the internet and twitter. Worthing, who had trouble containing his frustration throughout the trial, was apparently arrested at the end of it for contempt.
A full accounting of how it all went down by an eye witness, here.
The Judge, and I haven’t confirmed this, but I believe he was former Montgomery County Chief Justice James Vaughan–a guy who retired in ’04, and still takes the odd shift when stuff gets busy or there are vacations. In an earlier matter, Judge Vaughan mentioned he lived in the Caribbean, so pretty sure that’s the guy.–update, man’s named was Vaughey, not Vaughan. Is still retired, taking the odd shift.
It went bad for Walker pretty quickly. If you’ve followed the matter, and I know not a lot of people have, Walker, who is an attorney, acted in an advisory capacity for another blogger who had dealings with Kimberlin. Kimberlin later accused Walker of assault; those charges were null-processed; Walker wrote about things like you’ll read on Kimberlin’s wikipedia page, as well as his own dealings with Kimberlin.
Judge Vaughey had read up on the matter, knew Kimberlin’s history of felony convictions, but clearly was technically ignorant of even basic facts about what Twitter is, in one instance point saying “He Googled you 500,000 times” through the Tubes or whatever. The Judge had identified himself, earlier, as being “of the Royal Typewriter Generation,” and at another point, when confronted with the voluminous material from both sides, asked “don’t people have jobs, who reads this stuff?”
That said, Judge Vaughey did know a lot about the kind of respect a Judge is owed. He also, again, knew all about Kimberlin, saying “even a prostitute is entitled to protection.”
And Walker pissed him off. So did Kimberlin, but Walker identified himself as a Yale-trained lawyer, albeit one who was representing himself. Kimberlin made any number of allegations–essentially, everything that was said about his side–issuing death threats, harming business interests, summoning SWAT teams to the home–was said by Kimberlin to have been done by Walker’s side.
The pair went back and forth, back and forth, with Walker getting increasingly flustered, and the Judge finally asking, “what did they tell you in Yale Law School about interrupting a judge?” And later advising Walker to sit down, grip a pencil, and whenever he was tempted to speak over the Judge (or Kimberlin, but mostly over the Judge), to instead grip the pencil.
At one point, when Walker again interrupted Kimberlin, an attorney who was “advising” Walker–i.e.,. sitting in the coutroom, but not actually at Walker’s table, signaled to the plaintiff that he ought to “zip it.” This process amused Kimberlin, obviously.
For the Judge’s faults, he really did try to let Walker make his case. When Walker was able to question Kimberlin–not about everything, but merely the facts that had occurred in the last 30 days (which is all that’s relevant in a Peace Order Hearing), it became clear that Kimberlin would unravel under any kind of competent examination. The guy’s story changed 3 times in 5 minutes. First it was that Walker had issued 14k tweets against him–which the Judge assumed were to Kimberlin’s account, and by Walker. Then it was 54 pages of 10 tweets each actually by Walker. Then it was 15k tweets about Muslims or something.
Shockingly, Judge Cornelius J. Vaughey upheld the Peace Order, and he further stated that Walker was in no way allowed to harm Kimberlin–and by harm he meant sending blog posts or tweets. Reportedly, the the latter was justified on Walker’s supposed “mob” having issued “death threats” to Kimberlin.
But how does the judge know that the alleged death threats were even legitimate and not astroturfed by Kimberlin’s crowd? That’s how these people operate. Did Kimberlin produce evidence that Worthing was coordinating death threats and harassment? Note to the judge – a blogburst is not a death threat or harassment. All Aaron Worthing and others have been doing is exercising their right to free speech. How can a judge in Maryland take away that right?
Judge Vaughey’s order makes the finding:
A.1. That there is clear and convincing evidence that within 30 days before the filing of the Petition, the Respondent committed the following act(s):
Placed Person Eligible for releif in fear of imminent serious bodily harm: COUNTLESS NUMBER OF BLOGS EITHER THREATENING DEATH
2. That there is clear and convincing evidence that Respondent is likely to commit a prohibited act in the future against the Petitioner.
I’m quite convinced that the senior citizen judge is hopelessly confused about what blogs are, as Walker has never posted anything to his blog that I’ve found that could be remotely construed as a death threat.
At the very most, blog commenters– and perhaps on a different blogs apart from Walker’s if the judge’s incomplete sentence fragment makes any sense at all–may have made comments, but the law is clear: you cannot be held responsible for comments made by others.
To a layman this is an absurd ruling, and I hope that Walker appeals this peace order and gets a judge under the age of 70 who knows what the Hell the relevant case law is.
Twitchy: Blogger and Brett Kimberlin target Aaron Walker arrested in Maryland; Updated
This is absolutely outrageous. In a positively Kafka-esque turn of events, a Maryland judge has ordered that Walker be taken into police custody while serial harasser, terrorist, and killer Kimberlin remains free.
Lee Stranahan put it best:
If someone is allowed to use a peace order / restraining order against a writer to stop them from writing, we’re ALL in huge peril.
Hans Bader, Open Market.Org: Injunction Imposed Over Blog Posts That Criticized Convicted Terrorist-Turned-Left-Wing Activist:
The order literally says that there are “countless number of blogs either threatening death.” I have read a great many blog posts criticizing Kimberlin’s misuse of the courts against Worthing, and can attest that none made threats, or encouraged any threats. Any judge could confirm the absence of threatening blog posts by using Google, so I am charitably assuming that the judge is not a liar, but rather meant to say that the blog posts incited threats by third parties, such as blog comments or emails in response to blog posts. The judge, an elderly man, has a very meager understanding of the Internet, and likely does not understand what a blog is, as opposed to blog comments or blog-generated responses, as this account of the proceedings illustrates.
But even if the blog posts actually did somehow incite death threats, criticism does not lose its First Amendment protection merely because third parties react to it by making threats. (Judge Cornelius Vaughey also ordered Worthing’s arrest, for reasons that are not yet clear. Twitchy reports, “This is absolutely outrageous. In a positively Kafka-esque turn of events, a Maryland judge has ordered that Walker be taken into police custody while serial harasser, terrorist, and killer Kimberlin remains free.”)
Via The Other McCain: 6:25 p.m. ET:
Sources say that blogger Aaron Walker has been released from custody in Rockville, Maryland. He was charged with “incitement,” but released on his own recognizance. Readers are encouraged to donate to the National Bloggers Club to help support Aaron’s defense against Brett Kimberlin.
Patterico weighs in: Aaron Walker Arrested for Blogging? Clearing Some of the Fog Surrounding Today’s Litigation