Today is the eight anniversary of the first peace order issued against a member of Team Kimberlin, my first peace order against Bill Schmalfeldt. This post told My Side, Part 2, of my initial legal response to harassment from Team Kimberlin.
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Gentle Reader, here’s the second installment in my side of the story of my adventures with Team Kimberlin.
As those of you who have been following the Saga of The Dread Pirate Kimberlin and Team Kimberlin will remember, Cabin Boy Bill Schmalfeldt spent months harassing Lee Stranahan and his family with disgustingly crude filth, including incessant and impertinent questions regarding the death of a child during childbirth. On Monday, 11 February, Lee came to Maryland from Texas to file a harassment charge against Schmalfeldt. I picked Lee up at BWI airport, took him to dinner, took him to the District Court Commissioner’s Office, put him up for the night at my house, and dropped him back at the airport on Tuesday morning. BWI is just off of one of the routes I take to work.
On 14 February, I received 40 tweets in less than one hour from @BreitbartUnmask ranting about Lee Stanahan, Aaron Walker, and me. Just after midnight on 15 February, I posted a notice on this blog and on Twitter addressed to @OldUncleBastard, @BreitbartUnmask, and @OccupyRebellion demanding that they stop communicating directly with me. Note: The date/time stamps on the tweets in this post are in GMT; I’ll convert important ones to Eastern Time for clarity.
Later that day, Schmalfeldt sent a tweet via his @OldUncleBastard identity referencing my demand. He was clearly on notice.
OldUncleBastard @Xcitizen10 @BreitbartUnmask A commentator on @wjjhoge’s blog post http://t.co/uZkIc4lA explains what the right wing mafia cabal wants.
6:37 PM Feb 15th from web
Click on that link yourself and see. The time stamp on the tweet converts to 1:37 pm Eastern Time.
He continued to send tweets to my @wjjhoge account. Between the tweet cited above and around 7:27 pm on 18 February, 2013, Schmalfeldt sent 11 more tweets to @wjjhoge. Because of this continued messaging following my demand to cease as well as other matters, I filed an Application for Statement of Charges on 18 February, 2013. Schmalfeldt was charged with both Harassment under §3-803 and Misuse of Electronic Communication under §3-805. Even though he was on notice and had had criminal harassment charges filed, Schmalfeldt kept sending me tweets and addressed a blog post to me—not a post about me, one addressed to me.
At midday on 18 February, 2013, during his Internet radio broadcast, Schmalfeldt made the following threat at around 1:02:40 into the program:
It’s all horseshit. It’s all absolute horseshit. And I and my family have been put through pain and suffering because Lee Stranahan has a grudge. Because somebody, in my opinion, is paying Lee Stranahan to file these charges against me, in the hopes that I will either break or die. I got some fucking news for you, Stranny [pause] Walker, Hoggy, Frey [pause] and Frey [pause] beware the Ides of March.
Here is an mp3 file of the threat.
If Schmalfeldt were not associated with Team Kimberlin, I would have taken that threat as empty bloviating. But, given his connection to Kimberlin, the persons threatened, and our upcoming schedules, we all took the threat seriously. You see, the Ides of March fell during the Conservative Political Action Conference this year, and three of the persons threatened planned to be at CPAC and to attend BlogBash. BlogBash is a blogger party/awards ceremony that is loosely associated with other events, one of which is the CPAC. As it turned out, there were additional threats made to BlogBash which caused the PG County Police to beef up security around the event. So I was not the only person to take such a threat seriously.
After he was charged on the 18th, he sent an additional 31 tweets. This the last of those tweets, time stamped at 8:17 am ET, Schmalfeldt sent out prior to being served with the peace order:
LiberalGrouch I wonder what @wjjhoge got by way of payment. Something to comb out the poop flakes from his beard? Hah. I kid. I’m a kidder. I kid that way.
1:17 PM Feb 17th from web
Aside from the juvenile attempt at potty humor, this tweet implies that I have been lying about being paid to blog or making money off donations or that I’ve been helping my friends Lee Stranahan and Aaron Walker from any motivation other than friendship. Let me state this very clearly: Until I recently set up a tip jar after my retirement from working full-time, I had never been paid to write anything on this or any other blog. Even today, I have never received any donation or benefit from any of the bloggers or organizations I have promoted on this or any other blog. This blog is a hobby and an expensive one. I have personally borne all of the expense associated with it, including legal costs. I’ve been able to do this because, until the end of May, I have had an above average income working in a very senior engineering position. I’m getting old and have now retired from full-time work. I’ve put up a PayPal tip jar and and Amazon Associate’s link. In the first two weeks, I’ve earned almost as much money as I net from 0.2 hour of part-time work at my current billing rate. If I’m lucky, I may earn enough to keep up with the web hosting expenses for this site.
On 19 February, 2013, the Breitbart Unmasked website published a post with Schmalfeldt’s Liberal Grouch byline. This was not a post about me. It was a post addressed to me. The about versus to is an important distinction. Bill Schmalfeldt, or anyone else for that matter, has a First Amendment right to write and speak about me (assuming he can stay with in the bounds of defamation or illegal threats), but he has no right to speak to me. I have a right to be left alone. The headline addressed the post to me by name:
Stranahan. McCain. Akbar. Worthing. Hoge. Frey. THIS IS ON YOU!
The post contains the following:
Will it make you feel more like a man instead of some crawling thing, Hoge?
Hoge. You are filth. You add nothing to the world. You are a stain. You know it. I know it. And that is why I must be killed.
Neither I nor, so far as I know, any of the others addressed in that post have ever threatened Bill Schmalfeldt.
Because these annoying and alarming communications directed to me continued after I had demanded that they stop, continued after the demand was tacitly acknowledged, and even continued after I had filed a harassment charge, I filed for a peace order on 21 February, 2013, and a temporary order was granted by Judge Rasinsky. According to the report from the Howard County Sheriff’s Office (as reported to me by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office), Schmalfeldt was served at approximately 9:15 am on 22 February, 2013. At or around 9:17 am on that date, he sent the following tweet:
LiberalGrouch A person who I will refer to by the pseudonym “Hoggy” has served me with a Peace Order. Two very nice Sheriff’s deputies just dropped by.
During the hearing for the permanent peace order on 28 February, 2013, Schmalfeldt authenticated all of the tweets, blog post material, and audio presented to the Court. However, Judge Rasinsky did not understand that Schmalfeldt had sent a tweet that acknowledged the notice to cease and desist, and Schmalfeldt lied, saying that he had received no notice. Lacking notice, Judge Rasinsky did not issue the permanent order, but he put Schmalfeldt on notice to stop:
The warning I want to give you is very specific, and it’s not an unusual warning for me to give. The battle line is drawn. He doesn’t want to hear from you, and that means no specific things addressed to him. If I was convinced that you had been put on notice and there were a course of conduct specifically addressed to him, I believe that that is something in the ordinary context of events that this statute would cover. Ah, I didn’t write the statute, but it’s constitutional up to this point, and it can circumscribe various freedoms that you might, in fact, have. Plus, it can also subject you ultimately, as it already has, to a criminal case where you may or may not win, I don’t know, [inaudible] look at the criminal case. I have it here. [inaudible] You’ve got to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” You may conclude that it is. Some people, ah, are willing to go to jail for their beliefs, but I see that as a risk in this, ah, ongoing exploration of Internet First Amendment rights. Just a thought to share with you. I’m not going to grant the Peace Order for the reason I stated, but you are on notice, and hopefully, ah, you’ll abide by the conditions that Mr. Hoge has imposed in terms of your contact with him, and, ah, continue your debate in a peaceful, civil, and legal manner.
While I was exiting the courtroom after the hearing, I overheard a very loud conversation between Tae Kim (Schmalfeldt’s counsel), Bill Schmalfeldt, and Brett Kimberlim informing them that they had been lucky that day but could expect to go to jail if they kept up the harassment. This conversation was also overheard by two other witness.
Judge Rasinsky explicitly rejected Schmalfeldt’s contention that as a journalist he has a right to continue to “ask questions” of someone after being told to cease and desist. However, in another peace order hearing in Howard County (Walker v. Schmalfeldt), Judge Zwaig ruled, in what seem to be an odd extension of New York Times v. Sullivan, that Aaron Walker was enough of a public figure that he had to put up with Schmalfeldt’s harassment. In both cases, Schmalfeldt’s lawyer argued that he was a journalist entitled to some sort of special protection.
During early March, Schmalfeldt had continued communicating with me in spite of Judge Rasinsky’s warning. I filed for a second Peace Order. At the final hearing on 25 March, 2013, Judge Ellinghaus-Jones ruled that because the communications were electronic, she could not issue a peace order. After beating that peace order, Schmalfeldt, believing that he could do whatever he pleases, kept up tweeting. During that hearing, Mr. Kim argued the neither his client nor I were journalist but that we were a couple of old cranks having a shouting match on the Internet.
So as of the end of March, Bill Schmalfeldt was able to brag that he had beaten three peace orders. Once by lying and twice by alternately claim that he was or wasn’t a journalist. In mid April, the Carroll County States Attorney’s Office decided not to prosecute any of the charges filed against Scmalfeldt that were related to the peace orders, their reason being that if I couldn’t convince a District Court judge to a clear and convincing standard, they wouldn’t convince the same judge beyond reasonable doubt. The State’s Attorney’s Office did tell me that the charges could be refiled if I were to win a peace order on appeal.
Because I believed that I had air-tight documentation to refute the lie about not being on notice, I appealed the first peace order to the Circuit Court. During the District Court hearings, I had represented myself. I hired a lawyer (Zoa Barnes) to handle the appeal. As part of that appeal, she subpoenaed documents that might be shed light on Schmalfeldt’s motivation to harass me. His lawyer filed a Motion to Quash the subpoenas. The Gentle Reader who has been following this saga may remember that Schmalfeldt was subpoenaed for documents and as a witness for the Hoge v. Kimberlin peace order appeal in May and that he didn’t bother to provide the documents or show up to the hearing. Mr. Kim also filed a Motion to Dismiss based on the same electronic-harassment-isn’t-covered argument that worked in the District Court.
It didn’t work with Judge Stansfield today, and he quickly threw out the Motion to Dismiss. Rather than argue the Motion to Quash, my lawyer asked if Schmalfeldt had brought the subpoenaed document. He hadn’t, so the judge ruled the motion moot, and the hearing began.
After opening statements by the lawyers, I took the stand and outlined for the judge (with greater detail) the facts you’ve just read. On cross examination, Mr. Kim tried to make the case about my “wanting to get” Brett Kimberlin. I replied that the case was based on Bill Schmalfeldt’s behavior toward me. And the petitioner rested.
Bill Schmalfeldt took the stand on his own behalf. He misrepresented Twitter’s Rules and Best Practices about the use of @Replies, but my lawyer had already introduced Twitter’s actual rule into evidence, so the judge was not misled.
During his closing argument, Kim brought up a federal case, U. S. v. Cassidy, that he tried to use a precedent for a First Amendment defense of Schmalfeldt. As Ms. Barnes pointed out, that case was not gemane; it deals with whether Internet harassment is covered under the Violence Against Women Act.
Judge Stansfield ruled in my favor. He found that Bill Schmalfeldt engaged in a continuing pattern of conduct to harass or annoy me, that he continued to do so after being told to stop, and that he did so without any lawful purpose. He also found that Bill Schmalfeldt was likely to continue that behavior and, on that basis, he issued a peace order.
What does that mean?
First, Bill Schmalfeldt has been adjudicated as a harasser.
Second, if he doesn’t leave me alone for the next six months, he can be charged with a crime.
What does it not mean?
It doesn’t mean that the First Amendment is trouble, at least not because of this ruling. Bill Schmalfeldt is still free to write about me so long as he steers clear of threats or defamation. He simply needs to stop addressing me directly.
It does not mean that any Twitter user is in any jeopardy as long has he abides by Twitter’s Rules and Best Practices if he has been told to stop bothering someone else.
As I’m finishing this post, the Cabin Boy is frothing at the keyboard about how his loss in court may shutdown Twitter and end online journalism.
My final word is this—
UPDATE—One more thing … Bill Schmalfeldt has written in the past of how the District Court judges dealt with me. I wish to state that much of what he wrote is categorically untrue. At all times while I was in their courtrooms, Judges Effinghaus-Jones and Green acted professionally and treated me with respect. Indeed, I was particularly impressed with Judge Green’s demeanor and the kindness he showed to everyone who appeared before him.
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He should have quit while he was only one loss behind.