Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Blogger Aaron Walker Wins A Victory For Free Speech, Then Gets SWAT-ted On The Same Day

This caught my eye after I returned and unpacked from my trip, and had to comment on it because of this threat to the free speech rights of bloggers, and the harassment some are getting for daring to comment on a certain convicted criminal.

Monday, Aaron Walker, who blogged under the name of Aaron Worthing at Patterico, and also blogs at Allergic to Bull, was granted an emergency motion granting his freedom of speech back that a retired judge took away from him on May 29 (The Other McCain).

Judge Nelson W. Rupp Jr. presided over today’s hearing, with attorney Reginald W. Bours III representing Walker, who did not attend the hearing at Judicial Center in Rockville. In a brief telephone interview, Walker said that Kimberlin filed a counter-motion that did not address the First Amendment legal issues at stake, but rather “made a bunch of new accusations” against Walker.

It is important to note that Judge Rupp’s ruling only temporarily permits Walker to speak and write about Kimberlin, pending a July 5 hearing in Maryland state appeals court. Walker is appealing a May 29 ruling by Montgomery County District Court Judge C.J. Vaughey that granted a peace order sought by Kimberlin against Walker.

Walker said he plans to file a report on today’s hearing at his blog, Allergic to Bull. A Virginia attorney, Walker has become the center of national attention since May 17, when he published a 28,000-word blog post entitled, “How Brett Kimberlin Tried to Frame Me for a Crime (And How You Can Help!).” Walker’s post highlighted Kimberlin’s long-running efforts harass and intimidate bloggers who had written about Kimberlin’s criminal history.

Kimberlin is director of a 501(c) non-profit, the Justice Through Music Project, which has collected more than $1.8 million in contributions since 2005. Kimberlin also co-founded another tax-exempt activist group, Velvet Revolution, that has made headlines (and raised money) by making accusations of wrongdoing against a variety of public figures, including GOP strategist Karl Rove, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and the late Andrew Breitbart.

In addition to his appeal in Maryland state courts, Walker has filed for an emergency preliminary injunction in federal court.

Then, on Monday evening, Walker and his family were the victims of a SWAT-ting attack (The Blaze).

“I hear a voice on the other side saying ‘open the door,’” Walker told The Blaze in an interview Tuesday morning.

“I stick my head out and there are two cops hugging the front wall of my house with M4s — they were pointed at the ground.”

Walker was clear to note that the police officers were measurably calmer than those involved in fellow Kimberlin-victim Pat Frey’s SWAT-ting incident. Frey claimed in his case, officers had their guns drawn and were yelling orders, believing he had just shot his wife (as that is what the hoax-phone call to law enforcement had led authorities to believe).

“Let me guess, someone just said I shot my wife?” Walker asked the officers matter-of-factly. Walker said that something in the tone of his voice must have given the officers a sense that he was indeed the victim of a hoax.

The police, of course, had to do their “due diligence” regardless. According to the blogger, they swept the house and questioned his wife who essentially asked them the same exact question Walker had at the front door. While she had a “gut feeling” a SWAT-ting or similar form of harassment would likely happen to them given their ongoing legal battle with Kimberlin, Walker said his wife was still a bit shaken after the incident.

Police, meanwhile, were also concerned with finding out who committed the hoax, according to Walker.

Walker believes the catalyst for the SWAT-ting stems from his recent victory in court against Kimberlin. Earlier in the month, Judge Cornelius Vaughey found Walker to be in violation of a peace order simply for Tweeting and blogging about Kimberlin. The judge asserted Walker was “inciting” violence against the Speedway Bomber, even though Walker maintains he took every precaution to not compromise Kimberlin’s safety. For example, Walker explained that whenever he has posted original court documents on his blog, he redacts Kimberlin’s address and contact details. He also said he will not feature a recent picture of the Speedway Bomber on his website as he “sees no purpose to it.”

On Monday, another judge reversed the decision and lifted the portion of the peace order which stated Walker was not permitted to even write about Kimberlin. Now, Walker is allowed to talk about Kimberlin to a general audience.

“If reporting that someone did something bad can allow a judge to ban speech,” Waker began, then that means “the death of journalism and the First Amendment.”

Luckily for Walker, the most recently appointed judge recognized that Kimberlin had been abusing the legal process, and Walker’s free speech was restored. While the perpetrator of the attorney’s SWAT-ting has yet to be determined, it seems plausible that Kimberlin would be disappointed over his legal setback and that he or his minions might be motivated to silence Walker further.

So, where and when is this all going to stop? What will it take to stop it, the accidental shooting by police of any conservative blogger these SWAT-ters decide to target? Where is the FBI and other authorities?

Patterico has more here, as does Stacy McCain.  Lee Stanahan and Brandon Darby discussed it on their BlogTalkRadio show yesterday morning.

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