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What do the far right conservative group Eagle Forum and the ACLU of Indiana have in common?  They are part of a collection of groups and individuals filing briefs on behalf of Daniel Brewington. They think he got a raw deal and they think that Freedom of Speech is in jeopardy in Indiana. If these two groups, and many others, are holding hands on this issue then you know there is a problem.

The Indiana blogger, Daniel Brewington is currently serving time in Putnamville for being highly critical of the Judge and others in his divorce and child custody case. Daniel Brewington was angry. Most people in the midst of a divorce hearing are not in the best of moods.

Daniel Brewington went online with his frustrations. In his blog found at danhelpskids.com, you can find links to what he felt were relevant aspects of his case. The words chosen for the judge, the prosecutor and for the state's witness's were sometimes reasoned, sometimes harsh and sometimes maybe a bit over the top.

Using harsh words is not a crime and being highly critical is not a crime.....unless you live in Indiana.

Threats of violence and intimidation are certainly a crime, but a section of Indiana's code dealing with intimidation, IC 35-45-2 defines a threat as anything that may "expose the person threatened to hatred, contempt, disgrace, or ridicule." False statements are not specified and true statements are not protected.

This type of scenario should horrify anyone reading this story. Our government officials must be held accountable. Anyone who chooses to serve the public, is elected by the public, or is paid by the State must expect and tolerate being berated by the public.

Is it really wise to allow those who have so much power in our community the power to imprison people who expose them to "hatred, contempt, disgrace, or ridicule"? Dissent, particularly when justified, is seen by many in the United States as our patriotic duty.

A world where the people are afraid to speak for fear of imprisonment is a world where the people in power have the ability to quell protest and ensure that injustices performed by the state are hidden.

There is a March 11th deadline for the State to file their brief. At some unspecified point after this deadline the State will decide if they will hear the case.

In the meantime, the people are coming together on a new Facebook page(Free Daniel Brewington) and signing an on-line petition (change.org petition) to further encourage the Indiana Supreme Court to hear Daniel Brewington's case.

There is indeed two major aspects to this story. One being what most would consider the wording in Indiana's code and the other being the heavy handed and somewhat vindictive nature of a small town legal system that boasts the most extreme sentences in the state and a frequently overcrowded jail just twenty years old with a proposed expansion strongly advocated for by Prosecutor Negangard.

Mr. Brewington was dealing with a Judge who ignored the fact that his record as a father was perfect and decided against the advice of the court appointed psychiatrist who felt that he should be allowed visitation and took his children away from him anyway. Mr. Brewington was dealing with a group of "victims" who despite knowing how to protect themselves through legal channels decided against ever filing a protective order. There was never an instance of Mr. Brewington being in the presence of any of the "victims" who suggested they were scared for their life, but were unable to cite any real "threat" of violence.

Can you understand his frustration? I can.

Mr. Brewington was not trying to hide anything. The grand jury transcript is even available on-line. He put it all out there for everyone to see and judge for themselves.

I suspect Daniel Brewington will fare far better in the court of public opinion than he did in the court of Judge James D. Humphrey.

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Comment Preferences

  •  wishing him the best (6+ / 0-)

    he's going to need it in Indiana, which is the most intolerant (of any perceived difference or offense) at least as much as parts of the Deep South.

  •  I thought punishment for talking back to (10+ / 0-)

    the royals went out 1776!

    Separation of Church and State AND Corporation

    by Einsteinia on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 09:51:30 PM PDT

    •  Napoleon had to reconstitute the noble class (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Horace Boothroyd III, Avila, Woody

      after the French Revolution, elevating many bourgeois to the upper levels of society.  It appears we have done the same thing in this country, given the noblesse oblige behavior we have seen from folks such as Ann Romney and other plutocrats.  Just wait til they institute Droit du seigneur

      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    •  the royals yes, our own gov't, no. (0+ / 0-)

      "I thought punishment for talking back to the royals went out 1776!"

      don't forget The Alien and Sedition Act, making it illegal to say bad things about the federal gov't, so it's not like IN didn't have a role model here.

      threatening someone with physical violence has always been beyond the protection of the first amendment, but the threat does have to be realistic. for example, threatening to "punch you to the moon!" would (i hope, anyway) be seen as hyperbole, not an actual threat to punch you to the moon. threatening to shoot someone on the other hand, is an actual threat, pretty easily carried out.

      threats against public officials are taken even more seriously, and should be, since they put themselves out in public daily, and are thus more vulnerable. again, it still must be a realistic threat.

      does someone have a link to a site with the entire story available on it?

  •  Well, I can definitely see why (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, Loonesta, Philpm, Woody

    the ACLU is in it: for one thing, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution supercedes any state laws to the contrary.

    Also, if you're a judge or an elected official, you have no right to hide behind the "I'm an ordinary citizen" shield: You chose to enter public office and are therefore deserving of scrutiny under a microscope. That's basic jurisprudence over the past century or so, and I do mean at the Supreme Court level.

    IOW, he can't claim the judge stole his wallet, but he can certainly rail against the judge's decision.

    Let's hope the ACLU takes it to the Supreme Court.  They should knock that Indiana law all the way to China.

    Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

    by Youffraita on Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 11:19:34 PM PDT

    •  it all depends on the phrasing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Avila, Woody

      so he could say "I think the judge would steal a poor man's wallet" or "In my opinion, the judge has his hands in the taxpayers' pockets" or "It seems to me the judge would deny a drowning man a glass of water"

      Should a statement cross the line, there are the calumny statutes of slander and libel allowing a civil resolution of false statements.  To criminalize speech seems that the next election cycle, the jails would be full of every pol who resorts to negative campaigning

      •  Well, yes. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Avila, Woody

        I originally alluded to libel and slander, but took them out of my comment b/c they DO cross the line.

        However.

        The standards are different when you're a public official.  I haven't studied libel law in a really long time -- like, since college -- but the standards for proving libel iirc are much tougher if it's an elected or other public personality.

        Because they have thrust themselves in the spotlight, you see?

        You and I have a greater expectation of being ignored & therefore a better chance of suing if we are slimed because we are just private individuals who crave anonymity (well, I do, anyway).

        Whereas those who are in the public eye on purpose have no such expectation.

        You can't accuse them of holding up Fort Knox but you can make a whole lot of swipes at their integrity that you can't get away with toward me.  ;-D

        Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

        by Youffraita on Fri Mar 15, 2013 at 12:01:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  wow; imagine if GWB had invoked such a law (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, sturunner, Woody

    27% of America would have remained out of jail, 20% by the end of his term.  Evidently the judge was miffed and judges tend to mistake themselves for the law which they are supposed to serve.

    My son was threatened with jail for "interfering with the orderly functions of a court or court official" by a local magistrate.  His crime?  He had accompanied his sister to a hearing before the magistrate and had to get up to use the men's room.  He had a bit of stomach flu and he simply got up to leave.  The magistrate took umbrage because he assumed it was a one man walk out to disrespect him.  Son ended up having to go to Men's room accompanied by two armed deputies to prove his bowels were loose.  Talk about pressure.

    Same magistrate inherited office from his father and basically has an office for life though the county has had to settle a couple of sexual harassment suits against him and he clearly carries grudges against various people in the community

  •  He will not fare better in the court of public (6+ / 0-)

    opinion, outside the Men's Rights Brigade, if the public reads what he actually did in the way of threatening people, not all of whom were public figures.

    I'm happy to see the overbroad and probably unconstitutional parts of this law reviewed and perhaps eliminated, and refer readers to the blog of one of those writing a brief in the matter: Volokh blog. The state's response brief is linked there as well.

    However, I'll pass on sympathizing with a guy who cleverly but clearly threatened the judge, his family, and the custody evaluator with physical violence including arson, stalking, and shooting. The fact that some of his nonsense should be protected as speech doesn't mean it all should, and certainly doesn't make him someone I can sympathize with as just "frustrated."

  •  It sounds like he issued death threats against (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jan4insight

    the judge and others. Is this right?

    •  eh...that's a stretch. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, VClib

      you can find some facts in the IN prosecutors brief via Villanova's link.  re the judge, looks like the worst is that he said something like "your decision is playing with fire and I'm an accomplished pyromaniac," whatever that means.  and he had supporters send letters to the judge's house.

  •  The criminal code was passed by the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody

    legislature. If a judge wants to take advantage of it, that's his prerogative.
    We need to start paying more attention to the fact that legislative bodies write and issue the laws which the executive and judiciary then follow. Relying on the other two bodies not to follow the law is foolish.

    That said, the courts are a largely autonomous arena because nobody but people who are summoned or want something from the courts pays any attention to what's going on. So, judges are sloppy and rely on the "opposing counsel" to do their work; prosecutors are lazy and rely on inattentive judges to sort things out; and, since everybody is presumed guilty of something, everybody in the system just shrugs their shoulders and goes on. Jury trials have to be avoided, if at all possible, because jurors, unless they are very carefully selected, can gum up the works.

    Self-government is a lot of work and takes a lot of time and, in the modern world, the movers and shakers have conspired to insure that nobody has any time for anything important. Never mind the cost of gas. Think of the millions of hours a day wasted in the U.S. by people driving themselves around in cages on wheels to gather the necessities of life.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Fri Mar 15, 2013 at 02:52:41 AM PDT

  •  I don't recall much liberal sympathy... (0+ / 0-)

    ...for the RW radio host in CT who was jailed for threatening judges.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Fri Mar 15, 2013 at 03:41:02 AM PDT

  •  What did he write? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, happy camper, denig

    How on earth is anyone here supposed to form an opinion on this piece without knowing what it was he said?  

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