Monday, March 25, 2013

Right to petition for redress

I have posted about the Dan Brewington case. The Indiana Lawyer
Humphrey, who didn’t preside in Brewington’s criminal trial, said it would be inappropriate to comment about the case at this time.

But Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard said Brewington’s case is anything but a First Amendment matter. “The advocates for this have said they don’t want to get into the minutiae,” he said. “Why let the facts get in the way of the case?”
Humphrey is hiding behind an indefensible position. It might be inappropriate to comment if he were the presiding judge in the criminal trial, but he brought a public complaint against Brewington and testified as a witness.

I am happy to discuss the minutiae of the case. Brewington's comments, in context, only threatened to hold public officials accountable thru the law and public opinion.
He said jurors decided Brewington’s guilt based on evidence that included witnesses who said Brewington had made them fearful with warnings such as, “I’ll destroy you.”

The state argues in its response to the transfer petition filed March 12 that the Supreme Court should take the case, but for far different reasons. “This Court should affirm Brewington’s conviction for intimidation because Brewington’s communications to and about the judge were truly threatening communications, conveying the threat that he would injure the judge or commit a crime against him,” the brief states.

Brewington’s speech is unprotected, the state claims. “Brewington communicated ‘true threats’ to Judge Humphrey, although he cleverly attempted to disguise them. Brewington’s communications to and about the judge included communications that both indicated Brewington’s capacity for setting things on fire … as well as communications that made clear to the judge that Brewington knew where the judge lived, and knew where the judge’s wife lived.

“It is a disappointing irony that Brewington, who is no friend of free speech when it is spoken by his victims, now takes refuge in the First Amendment,” the brief says, noting the judge and custody evaluator have a right to perform their duties without fear of violent reprisal. “Brewington does not have the First Amendment right to place them in fear of such violent reprisals for their speech.”

“This was not just someone posting stuff on a blog, but he was threatening our judicial system by putting witnesses in fear,” Negangard said. “You don’t get to communicate threats to someone to get them to change their testimony or not testify. The First Amendment does not protect those types of actions, otherwise, we lose our justice system.”
The prosecutor is referring to Brewington's blog suggesting sending complaints to a govt official, using an address from the public record.

Brewington's right to do this should be protected by 3 different clauses of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That is, he has a free speech right to express his opinion, a free press right to publish it on his blog, and a right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The prosecutor's complaint is that Brewington petitioned the Government for a redress of grievances, and that govt officials were upset by this. Posting a mailing address for a written complaint is not a violent threat, and the jury did not find that it was a violent threat.
Negangard noted that after Brewington was arrested in Hamilton County, Ohio, evidence was presented at Brewington’s bond hearing from a cellmate who said Brewington had broached the subject of murder-for-hire. Negangard said there was insufficient evidence to bring charges on that allegation.

Brewington’s co-counsel Sam Adams said those allegations are false and have been disproven. Brewington, he said, “never spoke with this inmate and his attorney in Ohio obtained the jail movement logs for both (Brewington and the other inmate), and it showed they were never in the same place at the same time.” ATF agents also investigated the allegation, Adams said.

“Our opinion is it was pretty much a jailhouse snitch trying to get his own charges lessened,” Adams said.
Why is the prosecutor running around to the press accusing Brewington of charges where there was insufficient evidence to bring them in court? Now that is truly inappropriate slander. Negangard could defend the conviction that he got in court, but instead he attacks Brewington with a series of accusations that were not proved in court.

That alone should convince you that Brewington got screwed. If he committed some real crime, then the prosecutor would be able to explain it based on the actual conviction.

Dan's blog reports that a Russian Pravda article has cited his case as an example of political persecution outside Russia. It compares Dan to some Russian cases, but the Russians did not actually serve jail time, as Dan has. Maybe a better analogy would be to the Pussy Riot, where a couple of Russian punk rocker women are still in prison.

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