Update: Apparently Walker was arrested on Battery Charges filed by Kimberlin over an iPad at the close of the hearing. Also, welcome everyone, this site is mostly about free ebooks, especially pulp fiction and small publishing things, but I’ve been attending court cases on copyright and free speech as a hobby for a while now.
This morning, I attended the hearing over a protective order sought by Brett Kimberlin against Aaron Walker in Rockville, MD. There were only a few people there. The actual hearing was first in the regular room for DV/Peace orders, so we had about an hour of, you know, couldn’t-service-him, my ex-threatened-my-property stuff.
Then the case was moved to a different courtroom, and the trial commenced fairly quickly.
Walker, the defendant, if you will–and I apologize for getting any terminology wrong, I don’t have a lot of experience with peace orders, as my thorough pre-adoption criminal background check shows–had to represent himself. Kimberlin had an attorney present, who issued a few objections, nearly inaudible to me.
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.
Walker was also able to introduce for the record–again, Peace Order, it’s only about the last 30 days–Kimberlin’s convictions for bombings from I guess 1980, his revocation of parole in 1998, and even something where Kimberlin was convicted of perjury in 1973… ish. Then, when it came to actual convictions, there was one moment when Kimberlin came up with a defense about the judge being convicted of bribery, so he didn’t feel that those particular verdicts should be discussed, but that turned out to be an unrelated civil matter, and Judge Vaughey then insisted that the convictions remained in the record.
But, Walker didn’t press the credibility of Kimberlin enough. He was too easily sidetracked by the latter’s machinations, and every time Walker veered off, the Judge got madder.
Last portion of the trial, once the Judge decided he’d heard enough, came when Walker was asked, repeatedly, when does this all end? Judge cited his own upbringing in Brooklyn, where when guys had disagreements like these two did, somebody’d get picked up in a truck and they’d go have it out near the East River or words to that effect.
Walker at this point stated what he wanted was for Kimberlin to be tried by the State’s Attorney for perjury related to that earlier assault thing. Judge kept pressing Walker on this, stating that it’s entirely the Government’s business to decide who to punish (Libertarians might disagree), asking if the uproar could end, bringing up the concept of “Too Much Justice,” asking if Walker was aware of this–the latter indicated he was. Then the Judge and Walker swapped precedents for a little while, with the Judge… unimpressed.
Then the Judge ruled. He upheld the Peace Order, and he further stated that Walker was in no way allowed to harm Kimberlin–and by harm or contact the Judge sending blog posts or tweets. The latter was justified, in the Judge’s opinion, on Walker’s supposed “mob” having issued “death threats” to Kimberlin.
I left at that point. But apparently, Walker couldn’t quit while he was ahead, kept talking, and was arrested for, I assume, contempt. I hope contempt, and that he didn’t lose it further.
One other thing, besides technical illiteracy that may have motivated the Judge. MoCo is a notoriously timid place. There was a recent case where the authorities “didn’t do enough” in another peace order/DV matter. By all accounts, the burden of proof lies, in the extreme, with the defendants in such matters, and it’s likely the MoCo Judge was even more circumspect than usual.