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Press assoc., ACLU join blogger case PDF Print E-mail
Written by Erika Schmidt Russell   
Wednesday, February 20, 2013 11:32 PM

The appeal of a intimidation conviction for an Ohio man with Dearborn County ties is attracting some heavy hitters in the civil liberties community.

Dan Brewington, Norwood, Ohio, was convicted in October 2011 for intimidating Dearborn Circuit Court Judge James D. Humphrey, Dr. Edward Conner and Heidi Humphrey, the judge’s wife, as well as obstruction of justice and perjury before a Grand Jury.

The Court of Appeals of Indiana overturned the convictions for intimidating Conner and Heidi Humphrey. Brewington’s attorneys, Michael Sutherlin and Samuel M. Adams, are requesting the Indiana Supreme Court review the appeal, and that is drawing major attention.

The First Amendment charge is being led by law professor Eugene Volokh, with more friend of the court briefs being filed on Brewington’s behalf by the Indiana Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Hoosier State Press Association Foundation, and the James Madison Coalition for Open Government.

Volokh is a law professor at the University of California Los Angeles, and has written books about Constitutional issues, including the First Amendment.

Volokh writes in a law blog about the case and appeals’ court ruling “As I’ve said ..., I think this decision is wrong, and quite dangerous. It’s not limited to blackmail of the “do this or I’ll reveal this secret about you” sort; indeed, this speech involved neither an attempt to coerce the judge (the speech happened after the judge’s actions) nor a revelation of secrets. It would also apply equally to speech that harshly and repeatedly condemns legislators for their “prior lawful act[s],” as well as speech that condemns others — journalists, business leaders, and the like — at least so long as the speech seems to carry within it the “threat” of more speech. A very bad result, which I hope the Indiana Supreme Court reviews and reverses.”

Meanwhile, HSPA General Counsel and Executive Director Steve Key said in an email “... (HSPAF) became involved in the amicus brief, not because it condones the actions of Mr. Brewington, but because the Indiana Court of Appeals interpretation of the law would criminalize constitutionally protected threats to publicize and condemn behavior.”

“An example would be a newspaper columnist writing that his local representative’s vote on a particular issue was ridiculous and that he hoped his column would lead voters to view that legislator with contempt. That column should not trigger an arrest for intimidation.”